Both robotics and 3D printing are changing the world of construction and fabrication on a very fundamental level. As we discussed recently, many major brands are even 3D printing parts of their shoes using a UV light hardened liquid such as that used by Carbon.
But what about construction on a large scale using these new technologies?
3D printing and robotics can also be used to generate full buildings in tiny amounts of time compared to traditional construction methods.
This new MIT-created robot runs on only solar power and batteries and can print an entire building from an expanding and hardening polyurethane foam in mere hours.
Experimentation has also been underway to source materials in bulk from local landscapes, opening potential for this robot to be used in emergency situations such as natural disaster relief. As IEEE stated, “the researchers have also successfully done some preliminary experimentation with electro-sintered powdered glass, thermally deposited ice, and compressed earth containing gravel and hay fibers.”
The robot, the Digital Construction Platform, is capable of more than spraying foam and other materials. It can fill the spaces between foam walls with construction materials, insert rebar, and even attach chains that it welds to be rigid.
This video from MIT explains many of the capabilities of the construction robot while it builds an igloo-like building:
Among the major benefits of a 3D printing construction robot like this is its ability to print with speed shapes and materials that are out of bounds with traditional building methods, but that may offer additional benefits that guard against the elements of the environments in which they’re being built such as added insulation.
As Keating, a member of the MIT research team behind the robot called the Digital Construction Platform, explained to the LA Times, the team has focused on technologies that could actually be readily adopted by the architectural and construction industries due to its easy integration into the field, real-world use potential, and ability to fit into required code certifications–things that are missing, he explains, from other somewhat similar projects on the market.
Another intriguing construction bot that puts a high-efficiency spin on a traditional building technique is called SAM100 2.0, short for “Semi-Automated Mason 100 2.0.” This bot can build walls at a speed six times faster than professional human bricklayers. It was created by the company Construction Robotics.
Check out this video of the bot in action:
Haas, vice-president of the International Association for Automation and Robotics in Construction, is quoted from CBC News saying “It's kind of in a renaissance right now…And I think it's going to be a huge wave this time,” in reference to the lull the industry experienced for about a decade, just the same as with AI, before what’s now expected to be a huge boom in construction robots.
Robotics are changing the face of many industries, as we also saw with this orange robo-swarm that works hyper-efficiently in this Chinese factory which we wrote about here. Construction is just one place we will see robot and human workers functioning side by side.