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Brick-laying Machines: the future of building construction?

Posted by
on February 25, 2017 at 09:35 AM

In today’s technological era, machines are taking over all manual jobs. Soon we might see the same happening in the world of architecture and construction. Architects and designers can rest assured as there are no machines invented with the intellect to take over their jobs yet. But a company based in Perth, Australia Fastbrick Robotics Limited, did create a machine, named Hadrian X, that can lay bricks at a lightning fast rate, which could eliminate the need for skilled labour in construction. Reportedly, Hadrian built a fully functional house in a whooping two days’ time! The machine works at quite an impressive top rate of laying thousand bricks per hour, which equals 150 houses a year!

© Courtesy of internet sources

The company Fastbrick Robotics was founded by Mike Pivac, with the view of innovating a faster and accurate way of brick laying. He thinks, “People have been laying bricks for about 6,000 years and ever since the industrial revolution, they have tried to automate the bricklaying process. We’re at a technological nexus where a few different technologies have got to the level where it’s now possible to do it, and that’s what we’ve done.” His brother Mark, who is an aeronautic and mechanical engineer is the brains behind the operation. He has spent 10 years on the idea of Hadrian after being inspired by the technology he witnessed during his time in the Air Force. So far seven million Australian dollars has been spent on the project. After slight ups and downs in the sponsorship, the technology seems to be ready for a commercial launch in the coming year. It has now been taken over by DMY Capital Limited, with plans for a global intervention in future.

Mounted on a truck, Hadrian X, follows a fairly simple process. First the truck is laden with bricks, and the robot places each one on a conveyor belt. Prior to laying them out, it cuts, grinds, mills, and routes the bricks. After which, it mechanically spreads adhesive on each brick, and then utilizes its 98-foot retractable arm to stack the bricks precisely into place. All this is guided by a 3D CAD software, coupled with a laser-guided system, to direct the arm. So conceptually, it is similar to the process of a 3D printer. The robot is smart enough to be programmed to integrate void for doors, windows, wiring, and plumbing as per requirement. It is even designed to auto-correct itself 1,000 times per second to prevent interference from vibrations or sway. 

Fastbrick Robotics CEO Mike Pivac says, "The Hadrian reduces the overall construction time of a standard home by approximately six weeks. Due to the high level of accuracy we achieve, most other components like kitchens and bathrooms and roof trusses can be manufactured in parallel and simply fitted as soon as the bricklaying is completed." He believes that rather than taking human jobs, it will create more, "The machine will fill the void that exists due to shrinking numbers of available bricklayers, whose average age is now nearly 50 in Australia," he says. "Hadrian should attract young people back to bricklaying, as robotics is seen as an attractive technology." Their plan is to first use it in western Australia and then to rest of the country, before marketing it to the rest of the world.

The company CEO believes that people still prefer to use bricks to construct their homes. "Bricks remain the most preferred product for home buyers everywhere due to their thermal and acoustic qualities, and this machine will keep it cost effective to use them into the future." Hadrian X is quite a game changer in that respect. Despite its size, it can simply be driven up to the construction site and parked where needed. It works on adhesive, so there is no need to use mortar. The working speed is at least twenty times of that of a human, so it can complete the brickwork of a house in as less as two days with better accuracy. Unlike humans, the machine doesn’t need rest or sleep or food, so it can work uninterrupted. Pivac says that with Hadrian, there is an improved site safety, reduction in the level of waste created, and also a decline in associated emissions. Despite these advantages, in a country like India, it might not be of much use. Considering, labour cost and job opportunities, it might still be a good idea for us to delegate this job to humans instead of machine.

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