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February Spotlight: Terran Robotics

Terran Robotics is an autonomous construction company that uses AI to build affordable, sustainable housing. Founded by AI-researcher Zach Dwiel and homebuilder Daniel Weddle (left) in 2019, the company received a major boost when it was awarded a $250,000 NSF SBIR grant in August of 2020. The key insight driving the company’s innovation is that the most abundant building materials on the planet—clay, sand, and plant fiber (usually straw)—are not amenable to existing 3D-printing techniques. By designing a robot with the dexterity to handle the non-uniform nature of these materials, the company is unlocking the potential of earthen building to affordably house people in the United States and beyond.

“We feel that the sustainability of the type of construction that we do is critical. We just cant can continue building in ways that are polluting and are increasing carbon emissions. There’s just no other choice–it has to be part of how we do things from now on.”

In interview with WFHB in Bloomington, Dwiel said their current goal is “to reduce the cost of housing by 10x in 10 years.” He also said “I think the the standard construction process is definitely very carbon intensive and very polluting. Even once a building is built there’s a lot of energy that goes into heating and cooling it. That is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. We are trying to address both of those things: how much energy the building is using as it’s being occupied, as well as the energy and pollution involved in actually creating the building… We feel that the sustainability of the type of construction that we do is critical. We just cant can continue building in ways that are polluting and are increasing carbon emissions. There’s just no other choice–it has to be part of how we do things from now on.”

(Above and below) A rendering of a Terran Robotics home

Looking ahead in 2021, Terran Robotics will focus on completing a prototype of their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which will build the walls of their homes as well as raising funding from investors to take the company to its next stage of growth. They are participating in the February Pitch Velocities pitch competition to practice their pitch, which you can watch here. We wish them continued success and happy fundraising!

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