Zhuling Technology (筑领科技), a domestic startup focusing on construction robotics, has completed an angel round of financing worth tens of millions of yuan, backed solely by Lanchi Ventures.
Proceeds from this round will be spent on talent recruitment and product R&D.
Founded in September 2022, Zhuling is led by what it says is China’s top-notch robot experts, AI scientists and veteran construction industry practitioners.
The company is committed to supplying construction robots to enhance the level of automation and digitalization of a centuries-old industry, which continues to rely on manual labor.
The company’s first product is a robot that lays floor tiles. After months of work on its iterations, Zhuling claims to have completed the prototype design, undertaken lab tests, and put it through its paces in a real-world construction site.
Partnering with several top clients, which Zhuling did not name, its robot has to date laid hundreds of thousands of square meters of tiles.
The company said the product is way ahead of rivals in scores of dimensions, including overall cost, work efficiency, construction quality, stability and ease of use.
These features allow it to have fulfilled orders valued at millions of yuan, with over 100 million yuan (US$13.75 million) worth of intentional contracts already signed.
Labor intensive model
Amid an industrial shift away from a labor-intensive model, Zhuling vows to build other construction robot models, core parts, electric control system, AI algorithms and software tools, so as to spur the digital and intelligent transition of the construction sector.
Automation of construction work by robots is a trillion-yuan market in China, according to Dai Angang, founder and CEO of Zhuling.
A graduate of Southeast University in Nanjing, Dai used to be vice president at Bright Dream Robotics (博智林), the robotic arm of now debt-ridden property developer Country Garden, and heads the unit of construction robot development.
A veteran industry watcher, he added that China’s construction business is still in a period of “crude development.”
But as the country rolls out a raft of policies, and due to an acute labor shortage, the construction business will increasingly have to embrace technologies to become smart.
His views are echoed by Liu Hengzhi, chief operating officer at Zhuling. “We aim to leverage our experience of more than 10 years in robotics and AI to build low-cost, easy-to-use robots to innovate the construction segment, freeing youth labor and attracting new talent,” he said.
Instead of just selling robots, Liu has greater ambitions. Only when migrant workers are supplanted by a new generation of industrial workers can more people be enticed to join the construction industry and as a result breathe new life into this traditional sector, Liu explained.
Waning infrastructure binge
For the better part of the past forty years, the construction space has been a front-row witness to China’s changing urban landscape, employing more than 10 million people every year.
In recent years, as many construction workers retire in ever larger numbers, with fewer new hires than necessary to replace them, the infrastructure binge that has been fueling China’s economy is poised to wane.
An aging workforce and adverse working conditions have combined to undercut efficiency and employment stability.
Commenting on its investment into Zhuling, Lanchi Ventures credited the team’s “rare command” of robotics technology and industrial know-how.
“It possesses leading talent in AI algorithms, sensor development, product design, and construction processes,” Lanchi said in a statement. “It defines the product form and matrix of the new-generation construction robot.”