Solution Summary: Bricklaying Robotic System
A bricklaying robotic system is a mobile robotic machine and system capable of laying bricks or blocks in outdoor environments.
A few examples are included below. Please visit the manufacturer websites for additional information and specifications.
FBR Ltd. Hadrian X®
Following a computer-aided design, the Hadrian X handles the automatic loading, cutting, and placement of bricks as well as routs openings to accommodate future electrical and plumbing services. The design software uses the specifications of a project to generate a 3-dimensional model of a structure. Subsequently, this robotic system autonomously operates through a network of computers processing the design data, cameras, servo motors and a laser tracker monitoring brick positioning. Subsequently, this robotic system autonomously operates through a network of computers processing the design data, cameras, servo motors and a laser tracker monitoring brick positioning.
The structural component of the machine is constructed from aluminum, carbon fiber composites and steel. It also consists of compensation systems, which allow stability and accuracy during brick placement, account for the movement of the 98-foot (30-meter) long boom arm as well as environmental factors (i.e. wind and vibration). It is capable to handle a range of products up to 20 inches (500 millimeter) by 10 inches (250 millimeter) by 10 inches in size and lay approximately 1,000 bricks per hour.
Construction Robotics SAM (Semi-Automated Mason)
The SAM uses a mapping software that generates a wall layout ahead of production. Per the manufacturer Construction Robotics, mast climbing work platforms allow multiple different SAM setups depending on the job. Once configured, SAM is placed on the platform and a SAM certified mason lays out the wall using story poles and a laser string line. Tabs on the smart story poles are adjusted as needed, providing the mason the flexibility to lay out the wall and gain or lose course height as needed. Unlike a fully autonomous robotic system, the SAM needs to be manually loaded with bricks (figure 1) and mortar (figure 2) during operation. Furthermore, while SAM is measuring, mortaring and placing bricks, the mason must work alongside same striking the joints and ensuring wall quality.
Figure 1. A mason loading bricks into the SAM (Photo courtesy of Construction Robotics)
Figure 2. A mason loading mortar into the SAM (Photo courtesy of Construction Robotics)
Heavy and frequent lifting and carrying during manual material handling can cause low back disorders, such as muscle strain or a disc herniation (“slipped disc”), which is bulging of disc material possibly pressing on the spinal cord or nerves that go into the leg.
Stressful hand and wrist activities can cause MSDs such as muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of elbow and wrist tendons; or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is compression of a wrist nerve, resulting in finger numbness and loss of hand strength.
How Risks are Reduced:
A bricklaying robotic system can help reduce manual material handling by eliminating (Hadrian X) or reducing (SAM) the need to manually handle bricks during bricklaying operations.
A bricklaying robot can help reduce stressful hand and wrist activities eliminating the need to handle bricks as it can be mechanically gripped and positioned by the robot.
As is the case with any construction tool and equipment, users should follow manufacturer safety recommendations and comply with any applicable local, state or federal regulations.
The robot needs a stable platform to operate. Workers should verify that the platform is rigid and meets the specification of the SAM. A collapse could be fatal if masons (loading the bricks and mortar) are working alongside the SAM.
While most of the work is done autonomously, workers should be aware of the distance between them and the robotic systems to avoid catching and dragging-related risks.
Workers should wear appropriate clothing and PPE when working with these robots
Another possible consideration is ensuring the superintendent (or vendors - depending on who has the responsibility to set up and manage the robots) provide adequate boundaries between workers and the system.
System malfunction could lead to serious accidents. While it does not happen often, users should ensure that the system is checked regularly (based on the manufacturer's guide) by a skilled technologist/technician authorized to maintain these robots.
Jean Christophe Le, MPH - CPWR The Center for Construction Research and Training
Chuma Nnaji, PhD, MBA - The University of Alabama Construction Innovation Integration Lab (CII-Lab)