Robots, particularly industrial robots, seem to be getting smarter, more versatile, and cheaper because of the speed of technological advancement. In fact, what seemed as insurmountable challenges just 5 years ago can now be added as part of a bucket list for what robots are capable today of doing. Add bricklaying to this list because engineers in Perth, Australia have developed a fully-operational house-building / brick-laying robot that can create a brick framework in just two days. This is 20 times faster than a human bricklayer. The developers named the robot Hadrian – after Hadrian’s Wall in England – and Hadrian has a top brick laying speed of 1,000 bricks an hour. At this speed, a single robot can build the equivalent of about 150 houses in a year. And probably the biggest advantage is that there’s no need for the robot to sleep, eat, negotiate a salary, or have medical care, a really huge uptake over human manual laborers.
The heart of Hadrian is its articulated telescopic boom measuring some 92 feet (28 meters) that does the actual brick laying. It sits on a mounted excavator for better mobility, though the whole thing can sit on a truck for easier movement from place to place. The robot brick-layer uses information fed from a 3D CAD representation of the home for brick placement. The mortar or adhesive is delivered through pressure at the head of the boom. The boom auto-corrects itself 1,000 times per second to prevent interferences from swaying or vibrations. This concept is almost the same to the manufacturing process used on 3D printers. It’s a large jump from the past brick laying robot introduced some 5 years ago that lays a pattern of bricks on a flat road. The brainchild of Fastbrick Robotics, a commercial version of Hadrian will be ready for launching sometime next year. This is according to Fastbrick Robotics CEO Mike Pivac. He further states that, “Hadrian reduces the overall construction time of a standard home by approximately six weeks.
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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.” Pivac goes on further to say that, “Hadrian improves site safety, reduces the level of waste created with each house construction, and cuts down on associated emissions too. And rather than taking human jobs, he hopes that Hadrian creates them. The machine will fill the void that exists due to shrinking numbers of available bricklayers, whose average age is now nearly 50 in Australia. It is hoped that Hadrian can attract young people back to bricklaying, as robotics is seen as an attractive technology.” Mike and his brother Mark have been working on Hadrian for the past 10 years and only perfected the technology in the past 3 to 4 thanks to advancements in robotics technology. Mark was inspired to build this robot after coming across similar technology being experimented on by the Royal Australian Air Force.