In a world-first for the international building industry, a Perth-based engineer has developed a fully automated robot that is capable of independently assembling the basic structure of a brick home in mere days.
Mechanical engineer Mark Pivac has christened his invention “Hadrian,” after the renowned wall of antiquity built by the ancient Romans along their northernmost border in Britain.
The robot can lay as many as 1,000 bricks in an hour by means of a 28-metre long telescopic boom arm. It employs a 3D computer-aided design program to precisely determine the correct position of each brick relative to a fixed location, as well as the correct sequence in which they should be placed.
In addition to applying mortar to each of the bricks individually, the robot is also capable of measuring and scanning them, as well as adjusting their length to ensure that they all slot correctly into the original building design.
Pivac claims the invention is a world-first despite the efforts of inventors and engineers to develop an automated brick-laying process since the start of the industrial revolution.
According to Pivac, who previously worked with a wide range of advanced manufacturing and instrumentation methods during his time as an aeronautics engineer with the Air Force, it’s only now that we’ve developed the right mix of technologies to make automated bricklaying a reality.
The engineer has been developing the machine for roughly a decade after first acquiring experience in the field of computer-controlled machinery and after witnessing the bricklaying crisis that hit Perth back in 2005.
A shortage of bricklayers continues to plague the Western Australian building sector.
According to Pivac, over $7 million has been invested on the robot’s development thus far, which has received considerable support in the form of Commonwealth government grants, as well as financial assistance from Australian industry groups such as Brickworks Ltd.
Given the machine’s ability to work incessantly without relent, it should be capable of erecting a brick home within the space of just two days, as compared to the four to six weeks it would take human labourers. That potentially translates into over 180 houses in a single year.
The machine could dramatically increase the pace at which new houses are built, and could slash construction costs amidst a climate of mounting concern about home affordability.
According to Pivac, the machine should not have too much of negative impact on construction employment, given that fewer young people are becoming bricklayers and the average age of labourers is on the rise.
The technology has just received a major boost from the decision of investment firm DMY Capital Limited to enter a conditional agreement for the 100 per cent acquisition of Fastbrick Robotics, the company established by Pivac with his cousin Mike Pivac to develop and promote the machine.