Tile is a very “old school” segment of the construction industry, according to Ted Acworth, founder and CEO of Artaic.
“The way tile is manufactured, the way it’s shipped, the way installers put it in is the way it’s been done for thousands of years,” he said.
Other segments of the industry have been highly modernized, Acworth explained. Carpet can be digitally produced with custom colors and patterns. Windows can feature self-cleaning elements or smart films that become more opaque when needed. Acworth saw an opportunity to bring tile installations into the modern era, too.
“It started with the tilework—can we make it more beautiful and artistic than basic tile?—but it’s expanded into, can we work with installers and construction companies to make a more efficient process, really using technologies to streamline any tile installation?” Acworth said.
Artaic uses design software and robotics technology to create custom tile mosaics. Installations are suitable for walls, floors and even outdoor applications, and can be designed from visual architectural plans or 3D digital scans of the project space to “get the measurement to submillimeter accuracy,” Acworth said. Product is then shipped as part of an installation kit.
Artaic was spun out of MIT, Acworth’s alma mater, and has won grants from the National Science Foundation to continue its research and development efforts.
He believes that digital technology will continue to evolve the construction supply chain, bringing down the cost of construction.
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“You see, little by little, the different categories of materials used in buildings continuing to advance,” he said. “They become more customizable, easier to use, faster to design with a faster supply chain.”
Offsite construction is part of that evolution, as more work is being done in factory-controlled settings and shipped to the jobsite ready to be installed. “That results in a tremendous cost savings and more precisely built buildings that are longer lasting and more environmentally friendly, more airtight. You just can’t beat the cost and precision of something built in a factory, versus built on a worksite somewhere.”