Canvas’ new compact drywall finishing robot fits into smaller construction spaces

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The compact, electric 1200CX robot for drywall finishing from Canvas.

The electric 1200CX robot for drywall finishing is designed to fit into smaller spaces. Source: Canvas

Canvas Construction Inc. today announced the release of its latest product, the 1200CX. The company said that years of development and customer feedback have led to a more compact, lightweight, and maneuverable version of its flagship robot, the 1550 model. 

This more compact system allows Canvas customers to use its technology in smaller spaces, like multifamily and tower construction projects. The 1200CX measures 30 in. (76.2 cm) by 34.5 in. (87.6 cm), weighs 1,200 lb. (544.3 kg), and has a 12-ft. (3.6-m) finishing height. The company’s previous model measured 15.5 ft. (4.7 m) tall, making it better for taller, more open spaces. 

“It’s been a huge piece of feedback from our customers, that being able to be compact and get into small spaces allows them to use the robotic system for all of their walls as opposed to just some of them,” Kevin Albert, the co-founder and CEO of Canvas, told The Robot Report.

The company equipped the robot with all-wheel steering, making it easier to maneuver in tight spaces. The 1200CX is battery-powered and can run all day on a single charge. It’s capable of wall-to-wall finishing, meaning it finishes right up to adjacent walls and ceilings.

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Canvas automates drywall finishing 

Not only does Canvas’ technology enable highly consistent quality across project types; it also reduces the time required to finish a wall from five days in a traditional manual process to just two days, said the company. 

“One of the core philosophies in the company is that we use the capabilities of the robot to reinvent how the process is done, and not just have a robot that does what people do,” Albert said.  

“Drywall finishing is the step that comes in between hanging the boards and painting,” he explained. “So, when you’re making an interior wall, you hang the boards on the studs, and then you have basically a panelized wall that looks pretty ugly. You actually have to make that into a flat wall before you prime and paint it. Drywall finishing is that process of using joint compound, or what in the industry is called mud, to flatten out that wall.” 

“The way humans do it is kind of an iterative process, where you’re applying multiple different thin layers of mud to build up to that flat wall,” Albert said. “For the predominant levels of finishes, it takes about five days to do four steps of mud application and then a sanding step. That means you have to let the wall dry every single day and then come back and do the same area over again.” 

Instead of manually applying different layers of mud, Canvas’ robots precisely spray all of the joint compounds onto the wall in a single step. This means the company only needs to spend one day applying the mud application and one day sanding. 

“We use the accuracy of the robot to apply all of the material in one day, as opposed to the four-day iterative process,” Albert said. “And then we have one drying cycle, and it can be sanded back once the material dries.” 

The robot has an interchangeable sanding head that can be swapped in when needed for the sanding process. It also has a vacuum system that captures 99.9% of dust during sanding, according to Canvas. The company said spending just two days on drywall finishing gives contractors more control over their schedule while making finishing more efficient. 

Why has the construction industry been slow to adopt robots?

According to a 2022 survey from ABB Robotics, only 55% of construction companies across the U.S., Europe, and China said they use robotics, compared with 84% of automotive companies and 79% of manufacturing companies. Despite this, the industry will need to attract an estimated 501,000 additional workers, on top of the normal pace of hiring, in 2024 to meet the demand for labor. So, what’s holding the industry back from automating?

“The major problem is that a construction site is an extremely different and much more dynamic environment than a manufacturing floor,” said Albert. “If you think about manufacturing, you’re making standard assemblies that have customized parts, so all the parts are specifically designed for that thing and they all fit together.” 

“Building is really making a custom assembly out of standardized parts, so it almost turns it on its head,” he continued. “You end up with a very custom, very dynamic environment that you’re only building for the first time.” 

Albert noted that many robots in the construction industry work on the outside of buildings, making Canvas an even more unique solution in the market.

“In construction, you’ve got lots of heavy machinery on the exteriors, you got excavators, you’ve got cranes, you’ve got all of these highly leveraged pieces of machinery that people use,” he said. “On the interiors, it’s all hand tools.”  

“The thing that’s really interesting about construction is there are 75 independent trades in construction to finish the construction project, and so there is a huge amount of space to bring what I would call advanced or heavy or intelligent heavy equipment into the interiors of spaces,” Albert said.

Canvas said its new product can handle a broad range of building types, including multifamily residential, condo, hospitality, hospital, data center, airport, manufacturing, warehouse, education, municipal, and office.

The 1200CX can reduce work at height, cut 70% of repetitive motion, and capture 99% of dust, claims Canvas.

The 1200CX can reduce work at height, cut 70% of repetitive motion, and capture 99% of dust, claims Canvas. Source: Canvas

What comes next for Canvas?

On top of its latest product release, Canvas has been rolling out over-the-air (OTA) updates for its current drywall finishing robot. For example, the company pushed out an update that allowed its robots to finish walls at the customer’s preferred level. 

Previously, its robots could only do Level 5 finishing, which the the highest level of finishing. This level is typically used in high-end spaces where an ultra-smooth surface is needed. Many Canvas customers, however, expressed an interest in the robots being able to do Level 4 finishing, which is suitable for most commercial spaces. 

Albert said the company was able to release both the spray and sand capabilities for Level 4 finishing in an OTA update. The company plans to do more updates in the future. 

“For the first time in the history of construction, the tools we are providing for our workers only get better after the initial purchase,” stated Maria Telleria, co-founder and chief technology officer of Canvas. “We are constantly improving the quality, safety, consistency, and productivity of our products.”

“We’ve got some cool software upgrades coming out towards the end of this year, and that will help [the robot] automatically position and handle ceilings,” Albert said. “And then we apply material with a paint sprayer, so adding that painting step and starting to look at other areas that can be done off the platform are pretty exciting.” 

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