In Amsterdam, a 3D-printed steel pedestrian bridge caught the world’s attention last year when it was constructed almost entirely by robots. Upon its debut, the bridge was the newest addition to a series of innovative projects by Dutch construction firm Heijmans. They worked in partnership with MX3D and Dutch designer Joris Laarman to create a unique and practical project that illustrates how robots can improve the future of construction. Six machines that build a better world
By Cat DiStasio / inhabitat
When it comes to construction, technology can go a long way toward making building projects faster, more economical and safer. Robots that can alleviate back-breaking manual labor and cut down on injuries are a welcome addition to work sites, and they can do everything from
building a brick home to constructing a steel bridge. Other cool machines have been engineered to help those in need, like a 40-foot-tall 3D printer that makes mud houses for developing nations. With so many complicated tasks in the construction world, it’s amazing to think about how machines can help us do them better, more powerful and often more eco friendly.
One of the greatest things about robots is that they can do things faster than humans. This one can build an entire brick house in just two days. Australian engineer Marc Pivac founded the aptly named Fastbrick Robotics company, which produced Hadrian, a robot that can reportedly lay 1,000 bricks per hour. The result of 10 years of research and development, this builder bot could save human bricklayers a ton of back pain and cut down on workplace injuries as well, if it ever goes into commercial production.
In Amsterdam, a 3D-printed steel pedestrian bridge caught the world’s attention last year when it was constructed almost entirely by robots. Upon its debut, the bridge was the newest addition to a series of innovative projects by Dutch construction firm Heijmans. They worked in partnership with MX3D and Dutch designer Joris Laarman to create a unique and practical project that illustrates how robots can improve the future of construction.
The world’s largest delta-style 3D printer can build mud houses at virtually no cost, making it a promising tool for developing countries. The BigDelta printer stands 12 meters (40 feet) tall and first demonstrated its mud construction technique last year at “Reality of dream,” a three-day event in Massa Lombarda, Italy.
The structures it builds were inspired by the humble mud dauber wasp, which also constructs its home from mud. Mud homes are more affordable and environmentally friendly than cement structures, and dwellings printed by this huge machine could shelter booming populations in impoverished regions, where housing is scarce.
A swarm of flying robots constructed a tower in France in 2011, marking a historic first for the fields of robotics and architecture. The project, simply named Flight Assembled Architecture, was designed by architects Fabio Gramazio and Fabio Gramazio of Gramazio & Kohler, and ETH Zurich engineered and built the levitating robot builders that put it together in a matter of days. The tower was created from 1,500 polystyrene bricks stacked 20 feet tall by 11 feet wide. It’s not exactly a skyscraper, but the project could be a glimpse into the future of building construction.
This Dutch paver laying machine, called the Tiger-Stone, makes laying a brick road just as easy as rolling out a red carpet. Compared to the time-consuming job of laying intricate brick patterns by hand, the Tiger-Stone deftly creates beautiful, durable brick roadways in a fraction of the time and with much less physical strain on human workers. The automated bricklayer is capable of putting down 400 square meters of road each day, up to six meters wide. Workers feed bricks or pavers into a hopper and the machine maximizes the force of gravity to lay them down just so, over a sand base layer.
A zipper truck is something the world didn’t know it needed, until it existed. In an ingenious feat of engineering, Lock-Block Ltd created a truck that connects premade concrete blocks to form a tunnel, without any mortar required. Its “arch-lock” assembly cuts construction time by up to 90 percent, in addition to saving the hardship of manual labor.
The truck is capable of zipping together a quarter mile of tunnel in under 24 hours. Best of all, the tunnels are immediately ready for use, since there is no mortar to cure, and the blocks can even be removed and reused in other projects if the tunnel is no longer needed.