Painting Robots Receive Industrial, Marine Funding

THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2024


Robotic painting company PaintJet recently announced it has raised $10 million in Series A funding to take critical automation technology to marine and industrial coatings markets, addressing widespread labor shortages.

According to the company’s emailed release, commercial buildings need to be painted for protection from the natural environment, though the American painting sector is currently in need of 100,000 laborers to meet project demands.

About the Funding

The release adds that this number of inactive workers is expected to increase from the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, causing faster building deterioration and more frequent repainting.

Automation, like that provided by PaintJet's robotic solutions, is becoming a major need in addressing this growing demand for protective coatings and paint, the company explains.

Instead of selling or leasing its robots to construction teams, the startup reportedly gives a comprehensive service of its robot and proprietary paint, while also overseeing the painting process from start to finish.

This model then allows PaintJet to tap into the $200 billion paint market without being reliant on a shrinking workforce.

"Our latest round of funding has officially signaled that help is on the horizon for the industrial painting industry,” said Nick Hegeman, CEO and Co-Founder of PaintJet.

“It's not just about automation; it's about redefining industry standards, addressing labor shortages, and introducing cost-effective solutions that break the mold of traditional painting. I’m thankful to our investors for backing our mission and enabling us to expand both geographically and across new sectors.”

With the new changes, PaintJet also reportedly plans to move its headquarters from Nashville to Virginia in early 2024 and make strategic engineering, financial and operational hires. The company believes that this move will support its expansion into marine-based projects.

When used on ships, PaintJet’s proprietary paint can reportedly prevent rust and corrosion and stop mollusks, algae and fungus from attaching to the bottom of a boat. Without this layer of protection keeping the boat’s bottom smooth, ships can reportedly lose 40% of their fuel economy from increased drag, which is a large reason the United States Navy has a $3 billion budget to paint its ships and submarines.

“The demand for skilled labor in construction is rapidly outpacing the available workforce. PaintJet's innovative solutions address this acute labor shortage while making significant strides in transforming the industry,” said George Easley, Principal at Outsiders.

“There are a number of features that make the business uniquely exciting. PaintJet’s market exhibits acyclical demand while suffering from structural inefficiency, and the business itself has both a differentiated technical approach and a force-of-nature team with rare expertise in commercial painting. We’re energized to partner with them to grow their team, offerings, and reach.”

In October 2023, PaintJet released its latest innovations, the Bravo Robotic Painter and its Alpha Shield paint to act as a solution for industrial painting.

Alpha Shield paint, the company states, can lead to a 9% average decrease in air conditioning expenses from its insulating properties.

Additionally, the Bravo robot, powered by predictive analytics imaging, reportedly uses 25% less paint, aiding in the reduction of operational costs, lowering exposure to toxic chemicals and maintaining a finish that needs less maintenance over time.

The company’s technology is reportedly used by Prologis, Clayco, Layton Construction, Brinkmann Constructors and more to receive painting that can prevent projects from premature aging.

This latest round of funding was reportedly led by Outsiders Fund with participation from 53 Stations, Dynamo, Pathbreaker Ventures, MetaProp and VSC Ventures. This brings PaintJet’s total funding to $14.75 million.

“PaintJet’s system is truly exceptional,” said Shaun Carter, superintendent for Vardaman Construction. “The speed, precision, and quality it delivered surpassed anything I had ever seen. It’s changing the way we approach industrial painting and setting the gold standard for efficiency and protection.”

Previous PaintJet Work

In October 2023, on the commercial side, PaintJet was able to employ its proprietary robotic application technology to coat more than 1.5 million square feet of building surfaces over the previous three years.

Hegeman told CNBC at the time that he started conceptualizing the robot to keep up with growing demand for painting services in the face of a lack of qualified workers to get the jobs done.

“With painting, the labor shortage hits you right in the face. It was not so much a challenge to sell and book work, but it was always a challenge to do the work,” said Hegeman, a mechanical engineer by trade, as well as a former head of a CertaPro Painters franchise in Nashville.

“At one point, we were painting a 150,000-square-foot warehouse and I had to let go of a crew—it’s not ideal, but it happens. Then it was just myself and my wife painting a huge warehouse just to meet a customer deadline.”

Along with co-founders Steve Wasilowski and Sonia Chacko, Hegeman reportedly surveyed the market for existing equipment that had already been proven safe and widely used on painting jobs, and crafting his new technology around these proven methods.

PaintJet’s eventual design involved attaching modular robotic components to the basket of a “cherry picker” lift. This “end effector” reportedly included surface-scanning cameras and sprayer jets that can apply coatings to one 50-square-foot section at a time. To move the end effector across the surface, PaintJet’s team of 20 employees use a remote control to operate the robot from the ground.

The company stated that its process resulted in around 25% less paint being used than in a traditional application, which Hegeman said was one of the company’s main goals in creating the robotic system.

In addition to the robots, PaintJet also reportedly formulates and sells its own line of paints, including low-VOC formulations, anti-foulants to help ships ensure fuel efficiency and insulating systems that can help commercial buildings such as warehouses and data centers to save on heating and cooling costs.

PaintJet reportedly offers end-to-end service with its robots, instead of selling or renting its fleet out to construction crews. While construction companies and real estate developers make up the majority of PaintJet’s early customers, the company says it hopes to expand further into the quarter-trillion-dollar exterior painting sector.

Hegeman also said that the company is working on developing the robot to handle more tasks, including pressure washing, caulking and sanding.

   

Tagged categories: Antifoulants; Asia Pacific; Business matters; Coating Application; Coating Materials; Coatings Technology; Coatings technology; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Exterior painting; Funding; Jobs; Labor; Latin America; Marine; Marine Coatings; North America; Paint application; Paint application equipment; Program/Project Management; Robotics; Technology; Tools & Equipment; Workers; Z-Continents

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