Construction robots
Construction robots are not far away. Image – Canva.
  • While robots are used in many industries, construction is lagging
  • Fast Brick Robotics is one example of a brick-laying robot, the HadrianX
  • Monash University has won a grant to build an automated construction capability

Putting one brick on top of another is a repetitive, manual process one might have thought could be given over to a machine. After all, humans have been laying bricks for several millennia in pretty much the same manner.

While this is undoubtedly true to some extent, the reality of bricklaying robots has not (yet) taken over the construction industry.

Australian company Fast Brick Robotics (ASX: FBR) has been around for a few years now, and has won various awards and contracts. Their HadrianX machine is capable of building the walls of a house in a day, up to 1,000 bricks a day and 100 to 300 homes a year.

According to their latest half-yearly report, six-month revenues for the business grew from $76K the year before to $352K in the period to December 2020.

Another automated bricklayer is SAM (Semi-Automated Mason), which was developed by Construction Robotics, based in New York, USA. The machine works alongside bricklayers, making the work less back-breaking.

Grant for robot development

Meanwhile, the Australian Research Council has provided more than a half a million dollar grant to Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering to lead a team from seven Australian universities to develop a one-of-a-kind facility centred on structural assembly and construction automation.

Included will be a space for collaborative robotics, attempting to achieve automated prefabrication.

Monash University’s Professor of Structural Engineering Yu Bai said that while many industries, such as manufacturing and transport, had adopted automated practices to speed up, optimise, and economise production, the construction industry was lagging behind.

“Robotic technology has made significant progress in a number of industry domains in the last several years and construction can benefit from this advancement. The use of robotic technology can be a game-changing step as seen in other industries such as aerospace and automobile engineering.”

Professor Yu Bai, Monash University

“It means the transformation of on-site prototype construction to made-to-measure structural production and the elevation of prefabrication and off-site manufacturing into automated processes.

“Furthermore, automating traditional construction approaches can remove workers’ exposure to unsafe tasks and hazardous work environments.”

Monash robotic lab
Monash’s robotic lab. Photo supplied.

This facility builds upon extensive research by Professor Bai and colleagues on modular construction and composites for construction. When combined with robotic technology, this can result in faster, more precise, lower cost and higher-quality production outcomes.

While a robot may not yet be building your house this year, it might not be too long before automated construction becomes the norm.

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