He has set up educational institutions, outdoor expansion, and established special forces summer camps. Before the establishment of the high-altitude cleaning robot brand R-Storm, Yao Dongwei already had rich entrepreneurial experience.
In order to continue entrepreneurship, Yao Dongwei quit his job as an engineer and went to the United States to study management. An accident made him understand the current situation of high-altitude cleaning operations in China: 99% of them rely on labor, the quality of workers is uneven, and falling deaths occur from time to time.
Yao Dongwei, who majored in automation, remembered his old line of work, and he decided to use robots to replace manual high-altitude cleaning. At the same time, he found that the domestic high-altitude cleaning robot market is blank, and there are no very mature products in the world. This is a blue ocean market.
In 2016, Yao Dongwei and his roommate established a company named R-Storm Technology, which means machine storm. After more than three years of product polishing and iteration, Yao Dongwei's team finally developed two mature high-altitude cleaning machine products: the snake-shaped wind robot Rs and suction cup adsorption RX. These two robots use wind adsorption and suction cup adsorption technology respectively, which can be applied to various walls, can cross various obstacles, and achieve full market coverage.
At present, R-Storm's products are mainly sold and rented, with a ratio of 7:3. According to Yao Dongwei's calculations, the buyer only needs to take three to four orders to make a return. The maximum cleaning speed of R-Storm's products can reach 1,500 square meters per hour, which is equivalent to the cleaning efficiency of 20 workers, and it can work with multiple machines around the clock.
In October 2020, R-Storm won a financing of tens of millions of RMB, and the investor is Guohong Jiaxin Capital.
Study Abroad and Start a Business Accidentally
It is not a happy story that started Yao Dongwei's entrepreneurial direction.
During his postgraduate studies in the United States, one day Yao Dongwei saw on the news that someone in his hometown was killed in an accident while working at heights. This made Yao Dongwei realize the danger of working at heights for the first time, and also knew about the profession of cleaning at heights.
"Currently, 99% of high-altitude cleaning is done manually, and the quality of workers is uneven. Falls and deaths occur from time to time." Yao Dongwei wondered, why not use robots to replace manual high-altitude cleaning?
With a background in automation, Yao Dongwei has met many outstanding people in the robotics industry in the United States because of his hobby of robots. Through research, Yao Dongwei found that China's high-altitude glass curtain wall volume is about 2.5 billion square meters, accounting for more than 80% of the world, but the high-altitude cleaning robot market is completely blank, there is no mature product, and everyone is on the road of exploration and innovation.
In addition, the labor cost of working at heights is increasing. "The state stipulates that people over the age of 40 are prohibited from engaging in high-altitude work. After 2020, people who are 40 years old will be born in the 80s. They would rather deliver food than do this dangerous occupation. The industry will soon find it difficult to employ workers."
Combining his own expertise and resources, Yao Dongwei decided to start a business and make a high-altitude cleaning robot. In 2016, on the eve of graduate school graduation, Yao Dongwei joined his roommate to set up a company named R-Storm Technology, which means machine storm.
For entrepreneurs, it is lucky to have products to refer to, but Yao Dongwei is not included in this list. There are no mature products of high-altitude cleaning robots in the world. After more than ten years of research on wall-climbing robots at home and abroad, they have not been industrialized. Yao Dongwei felt helpless.
Later, Yao Dongwei found that there was a Swiss product that performed well, but was too heavy. Products that are too heavy are prone to safety issues. After thinking about it, Yao Dongwei's team chose to only learn from its movement principles.
Robots are high-tech products, high-tech means expensive, Yao Dongwei's financial pressure is very high. "In order to save money, some parts are processed domestically and sent back to the United States, while others are processed by hand in the rental car room, and finally assembled."
The first-generation product made by Yao Dongwei's team is a multi-legged bionic robot with 22 legs, each of which is equipped with a suction cup, which is controlled by the air circuit to draw and release air, so as to walk on the curtain wall.
The product has just been formed, and new problems have appeared. The robot walked steadily on flat ground, but tilted within 5 meters of a glass wall. It took Yao Dongwei's team a month to find the reason.
Later, a colleague looked at the barometer at the bottom of the machine during the test and realized that the air path was leaking. The air circuit of this robot is a bus design. During the tenth of a second when the robot suction cup is dropped, since the falling suction cup has not yet contacted the wall to form a vacuum, the air circuit will be connected to the atmosphere, and the sudden drop in air pressure will cause insufficient adsorption force, and the robot will Unable to crawl stably. Later, Yao Dongwei's team designed the air path of each leg of the machine independently to ensure that air leakage in one leg would not affect the other legs, and then solved the problem.
After continuous trial and error and correction, this product has been updated for 8 generations, and Yao Dongwei is satisfied. He later calculated that the cost per generation was as high as 150,000 to 200,000 yuan. "We made the weight of the product 40 kilograms, which is half of that of the Swiss product. The obstacle-crossing ability has reached 5 centimeters, and the adsorption capacity is very strong. It is no problem to carry a 70 kilogram adult, walking on the flat glass curtain wall and solar panels It's normal." Yao Dongwei felt that the first product had complete functions and met the conditions for commercial production.
Yao Dongwei decided to try to promote the robot domestically. Inspiration from the toy car The reality is not as good as Yao Dongwei expected.
"Although the team has made the product 40 kilograms, customers still think that it is very dangerous to hang a 40 kilogram product at a high altitude." The customer said that the maximum acceptable weight is more than 20 kilograms.
In addition to the weight problem, it is the curtain wall material problem. The curtain walls of domestic buildings are not all made of pure glass, but many are made of marble, aluminum-plastic panels and cement. This robot fixed by suction cups is not very suitable for these curtain walls.
There is another point that Yao Dongwei finds the most difficult to handle. The window frame of domestic curtain wall accounts for too much, accounting for 20~30% of the total area, which means that the service scope of this product is not very wide. Coupled with the price of a set of about 500,000, customers are not willing to pay for it.
Yao Dongwei's first product was rejected before it was launched on the market. At this time, there was a more cruel problem waiting for Yao Dongwei's team, and the money was spent.
"Either continue to improve a generation of products, or develop new products." Yao Dongwei did not want to give up after this step, but the funding problem only allowed him to choose one path.
At this time, Yao Dongwei also made a bold decision to give up the product completely, start over, and return to China for development at the same time. At the end of 2018, except for two engineers who stayed in the United States for technical support, all Yao Dongwei's team returned to China.
What kind of products can meet the domestic demand, which stumped everyone. An unexpected discovery opened their minds. Yao Dongwei discovered that Disney has produced a wall-climbing toy car. The four-wheeled car is equipped with two propellers above it, which generates wind through high-speed rotation to control the car to move forward and backward, and can even be attached to the wall.
"Sucker adsorption can't adapt to rough walls, but wind adsorption can." Yao Dongwei decided to use wind adsorption instead of sucker adsorption.
Taking into account safety issues, Yao Dongwei's team did not use propellers, but drew on the design principles of aircraft engines and used semi-enclosed ducted fans as the power source. The strong thrust of the fan will create a low air pressure inside the machine, and the whole machine will stick to the wall like a ray.
In addition, in order to reduce weight and noise, Yao Dongwei's team replaced the aluminum alloy blades with lighter carbon fiber materials. After improvements, the weight of the machine was finally reduced to 20 kg, and the latest model is only 9 kg at the lightest.
Finally, the problem of crossing obstacles, Yao Dongwei's team chose to imitate the shape of the snake-shaped robot. Snake robots can move freely and are often used in rescue and disaster relief. According to Yao Dongwei, the new product incorporating the obstacle-crossing characteristics of the snake-like robot can span window frames of various sizes.
It took a year and after 6 generations of updates, Yao Dongwei's team made a mature new product at the end of 2019, named snake-shaped wind robot Rs.
"The snake-shaped wind robot Rs can adapt to all kinds of walls, but its load capacity is weak and cannot withstand strong winds. It is not recommended to use it at a height of more than 100 floors." Yao Dongwei doesn't want to leave a gap in the market, he wants to make up for this with new products Sorry.
If you want to resist the wind, you have to use a suction cup. Yao Dongwei chose the technology of a laboratory in the United States, called removable suction cup technology. This kind of sucker sucks firmly, resists the wind of grade 8, can move smoothly on the wall, and can be applied to smooth walls such as marble, aluminum-plastic board and glass.
Yao Dongwei's team named this product suction cup robot Rx. In September 2020, when the new product was basically formed, Yao Dongwei began to bring the product to the market. "We don't want cleaning personnel to suddenly lose their jobs, and hope that cleaning companies can slowly accept this product and make high-altitude cleaning safer." Yao Dongwei chose a combination of sales and leasing to open the market with a soft landing.
Now, R-Storm's products are mainly for sale, supplemented by leasing, with a ratio of 7:3. The purchasers are mainly large property companies, and the lessors are mainly small property and cleaning service companies.
"The maximum cleaning speed of our products can reach 1,500 square meters per hour, which is equivalent to the cleaning efficiency of 20 workers, and it can work with multiple machines around the clock." According to Yao Dongwei's calculations, the buyer only needs to take three to four orders to get pay back.
Not bad in technology, only in money "When I was the poorest, I only had three dollars left in my pocket." Yao Dongwei recalled that since the founding of R-Storm, what was lacking the most was not technology, but money.
From the second half of 2017 to April 2018, the company struggled with almost no money. In order to save money, Yao Dongwei and several people left the office and worked in the living room at home.
"My partner would sell some trendy clothes to make money to support everyone. Sometimes I would drive an Uber to earn some pocket money and food money for everyone. I was very happy at that time, we were a happy small team ." Yao Dongwei said happily.
In addition, many friends have also given Yao Dongwei the courage to persevere, and some friends are even willing to mortgage the house to help them tide over the difficulties. Although Yao Dongwei rejected his friend's kindness, he still feels moved.
In mid-2018, Yao Dongwei received a small investment, which gave him a sigh of relief.
After returning to China, Yao Dongwei's team gradually increased to more than a dozen people, and the expenses also increased. Yao Dongwei was worried about money again.
In October 2019, Yao Dongwei's team received research and development subsidies for the introduction of key projects in Hangzhou, and the cost of product research and development was settled.
After entering 2020, Yao Dongwei has personally experienced the death of several startups of the same type. He was also torn between giving up and holding on.
In October 2020, Yao Dongwei felt that he could really take a breath. Because R-Storm has won tens of millions of RMB financing, the investor is Guohong Jiaxin Capital.
Yao Dongwei said that before getting this round of financing, he had borrowed nearly 1 million from friends. "I have really considered giving up, but I still managed to hold on. If it is a month later, I may not be able to hold on."
"We have two machines, wind adsorption and suction cup adsorption, which can be applied to various walls and can overcome various obstacles. This is one of our advantages." Yao Dongwei believes that the technical advantages and market coverage of R-Storm are Reasons for investment institutions to bet.
In addition to the building curtain wall cleaning market, Yao Dongwei's next step is to use his products in the solar panel cleaning industry. In terms of technology, Yao Dongwei believes that the current high-altitude cleaning robot has a single cleaning method. In the future, R-Storm may try other cleaning methods, such as high-frequency vibration and steam cleaning.
In Yao Dongwei's plan, R-Storm will not always be an aerial cleaning robot production company, but will become an aerial work platform in the future.
"This platform can be understood as a wall-climbing robot platform. R-Storm provides bottom equipment, and others can add various modules to our products, such as sensors, robotic arms, water spray devices, etc., to achieve various high-altitude operations‘ work."