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Hamilton technology to automate measuring and cutting of plasterboard a ‘world first’

A Hamilton startup, EC8, has created a world first in the building industry by developing automation technology to measure and cut plasterboard.

It is now making its technology available to builders, so they can cut down building times, have accurate plasterboard cuts, and decrease waste.

“It’s a world first - nobody has used automation for mass volume plasterboard for building,” says EC8 founder, Christopher Staal.

In 2018, Staal and his family renovated their home. He found that putting up plasterboard was ‘a pain’, and wondered how it could be more quickly and easily done.

“The building industry suffers from a lack of automation, so the idea was ‘where can I apply all the cheap automation to the building industry?’, and that’s where we joined the dots,” explains Staal.

Staal spent much of the following two years creating a tool which would take just a minute to digitally measure walls, controlled through a phone app. Once walls are measured, an order to pre-cut plasterboard is sent, and once cut, is sent to builders, giving them substantial savings of one two days of every build, without the massive capital cost.

“We want to get the time to measure and cut a sheet down to two minutes, down from six minutes, and we are nearly there,” he says.

Eventually, EC8 may bring its offering into other products such as flooring and roofing. Primarily self-funded, EC8 received an initial grant from New Zealand Government innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation, and intends to start selling and marketing its technology in the next three months assisted by a business mentor from Callaghan Innovation. “We’re so grateful for Callaghan for getting this off the ground – we wouldn’t have been able to fund this otherwise,” Staal says.

Staal says running a startup is ten times harder than being in a salaried job, and it has its challenges, such as time management, getting staff and securing funding. One piece of hardware took two years to get the required accuracy before it could be trialled commercially.

So Staal has advice for other startups facing challenging situations - “Take a breath, walk away from it. A lot of the time, a solution will come to you when you stop focusing on it.” After testing the New Zealand market, EC8 intends to branch out to the US and Australia.

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