Robot Bricklaying & Home Building Arrive

These are videos of 2 different kinds of brick laying robots. The first one is already in use and mostly does straight walls ( it doesn’t do corners, yet), and needs a human bricklayer to do things like point the joints and do corners. It lays regular “red brick” kind of bricks using regular mortar.

The second one is under development and has a prototype in operation. It is larger and builds an entire house from one corner of the home space. It looks to me like it uses cinderblocks and they are glued together with adhesive, not mortar. It does do corners. The video refers to it as “3D printing” the house. I suppose in a strict sense of the world it is doing “additive manufacture” but I’d call it more of a bricklayer than 3D printer. Still, it builds houses.

Speed is about 6 times the rate of human bricklayers. So things get done fast.

Now lots of folks will go all “panties in a bunch” about how this means nobody will have job laying brick anymore. Well, no. First off, to the extent it makes brick cheaper, a LOT more things will be built of brick. That is Jevon’s Paradox. Make things more efficient, you use more of them, not less. Next note that in the first case the bricklayers are still needed to point the mortar, load the bricks, adjust the robot, etc. etc. They just don’t need to place each and every brick by hand. In the second case, you have a robot operator, set-up the site laser guidance, and someone driving a forklift to keep it loaded. Frankly, I’d rather drive and set up a robot than spend my day lugging cinderblocks up a scaffolding.

I’m sure the fields of brick layer and building construction will be disrupted by these machines, but I’m pretty sure it will be a good disruption in the end. SAM – 2:12 video:

Then this whole home builder from Australia – 8 minutes:

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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8 Responses to Robot Bricklaying & Home Building Arrive

  1. H.R. says:

    Those block laying robots are cool. As best as I know, every time a labor process is automated, it creates new opportunities in fields that wouldn’t exist without the new technology.

    People are lazy. You’d have to think that someone was “tetched in the head” if they went out of their way to do something the hard way when an easier way is available.

    If necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the father of invention.

    There’s a reason people set up sawmills to replace pit saws. The guys on the bottom of the pit saw cheered when the sawmill was fired up. They didn’t complain that their job was being automated out. Well, all except for a few Luddites.

    People also think, “More is better.” Most people always want more, either to keep or to sell the excess. It’s a rare farmer who decides to quit improving the yield on a farm because it reached a point where it produces ‘enough.’ I think getting and preserving excess is hardwired into most creatures as the exact future is unknown, but what is known is the future holds feasts and famines. So, most creatures stock up for the lean times.

    There are some minimalists, who think, “Less is better.” But they are usually the ones who are actually searching for “something more,” and so we have those few that pack a rucksack and head off to find new territories or seek truths and principles beyond day-to-day existence. We always need a few of those people. They are wired a little differently, but it’s a good aberration for the human race.

    It doesn’t take a Nostradamus to see that CNC Home builder Machine Technician is going to be a hot new field.

  2. J Martin says:

    This sort of thing will quickly become a standard sight on building sites, but won’t deal with the biggest cost, namely land costs, so won’t really be all that transformative. New or improved materials that have much improved insulation qualities would make more difference to bills.

  3. spetzer86 says:

    If you really want to print a house, you need something a little more fluid than a brick. Concrete house printing, as a concept, has been around for awhile. They’re not that pretty, but would keep the wind off:

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    As someone that has layed brick and block, I would cheer for a brick laying robot. I would much rather feed the machine and supervise it, then do the actual labor. Not sure that a machine could lay dry wall stone. Masonry work is a real body killer. Well done, it is as close to permanent as any construction can be…pg

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    @J.Martin; Ben Carson was just on FBN and stated that Regulation of Zoning and Planning contributes 30% to the cost of dwelling creation.
    I was once the head of a small city zoning commission and can attest to that. Nearly all the cost of build-able land is in the cost of regulation. Like all government regulation of commerce, If you limit supply the price rises. Most of the available land is quickly locked up in the hands of speculators…pg

  6. philjourdan says:

    The glue presents an interesting paradigm shift. Any brick layer knows that you do not measure bricks and divide into height/width/length. You have to factor in the mortar. But according to this, now there will be more bricks (because each layer is actually smaller). At the same time, you eliminate a source of wear (albeit not short term) in that bricks do have to be re-mortared periodically. And they did indicate that it is more energy efficient (which seems logical, although I do not know the thermodynamics of mortar versus brick).

    It has to be Oz, because even all brick houses here do not have brick interior walls (adobe does in some places). As I love brick, I would not mind getting to play with that last machine! I guess I was born a little too early to enjoy the benefits of that baby!

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    H.R. Frank Gilbreth (1868-1924) pioneer (with his wife, a qualified engineer) of Time and Motion Studies always asked on entering a factory to have their laziest employee doing the job under question, as that was one way of finding the fastest, least effort to do so.

  8. H.R. says:

    @Graeme No.3: My Bachelor’s degree is in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth are pretty much the founders of Methods Engineering and I was taught their systems and and techniques as the foundation of Industrial Engineering studies. We then learned to use improvements on their techniques which had since been developed. Most Industrial Engineers’ first jobs out of college involved Time Studies to set labor standards and I was no different.
    Mildly amusing time study story:

    One time study I was asked to do arose because the shop foreman had complaints from the union on a job where no one could meet the standard. I don’t recall the actual standard. Let’s just say it was 2.5 hours and everyone was taking 3.5 hours. So the union called for a time study.

    I showed up and the fellow who was going to do the job (the union picks the study subject) was obviously not well qualified. That’s OK. Standards aren’t set to the fastest worker but usually to 80% or 90% of the average worker so that most people could meet the standard. Anyone who couldn’t meet standard shouldn’t be on the job anyhow, and probably required assistance finding the cafeteria. 😜

    The assembly was an ejection seat rail for a fighter jet. The fixture was on a pivot so you could rotate the assembly to work on the front or the back. There were three work benches in a u-shape around the assembly with the tools needed for various operations at each bench. (Bench for top of the assemble, bench for bottom of the assembly, main bench (#1) for the front or back side of the assembly depending on which side was rotated towards the bench.)

    After the usual pre-study protocols were complete, off he went. The times for each work element looked much like this (much, much simplified).

    Walk to supply cart
    Get part from supply cart
    Walk to fixture
    Place part in fixture
    Walk to bench 1
    Get tool and rivets at bench 1
    Walk to fixture
    Install X# rivets
    Walk to bench 1
    Aside tools…

    …and a bunch of repetition of that sequence except when he worked on the rear of the assembly.

    He didn’t rotate the fixture, he walked around it to the back side to place parts and rivet them and then walked around the fixture again to the bench to get or return tools and parts. Walk, walk, walk… with some notes like “Forgot X tool, return to bench” or “Wrong rivets, return to bench.”

    What was going on was that the union had put up their worst guy to bumble and stumble through the assembly process using the worst method possible in order to eat up as much time as possible.

    Well, when the assembly was finished, the elapsed time of the study was about an hour and 15 minutes. I went back to write up the study. Because I hadn’t observed good method, just a bunch of walking, I told my boss that the Standard should be the elapsed time of the study until the work instructions were updated to a good method for a re-study. “And tell the shop foremen that he needs to keep a better eye on his crew, because whatever is taking 3.5 hours, it sure isn’t assembling ejection seat rails.”

    Well, they did wind up cutting the standard from 2.5 hours to 1.25 hours (from memory, but something like that). The union steward showed up to protest the cut; “We needed more time, not less.” He was given my raw study notes, looked them over… and dropped the matter entirely. 😜

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