Robotics

Brick-laying robot can build a full-sized house in two days

The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour
The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour
View 4 Images
Hadrian is expected to go into action next year
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Hadrian is expected to go into action next year
The boom is auto-corrected 1,000 times per second
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The boom is auto-corrected 1,000 times per second
The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck
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The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck
The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour
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The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour

As robots get smarter, cheaper and more versatile, they're taking on a growing number of challenges – and bricklaying can now be added to the list. Engineers in Perth, Australia, have created a fully working house-building machine that can create the brick framework of a property in just two days, working about 20 times faster than a human bricklayer.

Named Hadrian (after Hadrian's Wall in the UK), the robot has a top laying speed of 1,000 bricks per hour, which works out as the equivalent of about 150 homes a year. Of course there's no need for the machine to sleep, eat or take tea breaks either, giving it another advantage over manual laborers.

At the heart of Hadrian is a 28 m (92 ft) articulated telescopic boom. Though mounted on an excavator in the photo below, the finished version will sit on a truck, allowing it easier movement from place to place. The robot brick-layer uses information fed from a 3D CAD representation of the home for brick placement, with mortar or adhesive delivered under pressure to the head of the boom.

The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck
The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck

The boom auto-corrects itself 1,000 times per second to prevent interference from vibrations or sway. The concept is similar to the additive manufacturing process used by 3D printers, and it's several steps up from the Tiger Stone paver we've featured in the past, which is able to lay out a pattern of bricks on a flat road.

After pauses in funding, Fastbrick Robotics is now ready to launch the first commercial version of Hadrian at some point next year.

"The Hadrian reduces the overall construction time of a standard home by approximately six weeks," Fastbrick Robotics CEO Mike Pivac told Gizmag. "Due to the high level of accuracy we achieve, most other components like kitchens and bathrooms and roof trusses can be manufactured in parallel and simply fitted as soon as the bricklaying is completed."

Pivac says Hadrian improves site safety, reduces the level of waste created with each house construction, and cuts down on associated emissions too. And rather than taking human jobs, he hopes Hadrian creates them.

"The machine will fill the void that exists due to shrinking numbers of available bricklayers, whose average age is now nearly 50 in Australia," he says. "[Hadrian] should attract young people back to bricklaying, as robotics is seen as an attractive technology."

Mike's brother Mark is an aeronautic and mechanical engineer and has been working on the idea of Hadrian for 10 years, having been inspired by the technology he came across during his stint in the Air Force.

With seven million Australian dollars having been spent on the technology so far, Fastbrick Robotics was this week acquired by DMY Capital Limited, and is promising "very exciting plans that will attract global attention" in the near future.

"Bricks remain the most preferred product for home buyers everywhere due to their thermal and acoustic qualities, and this machine will keep it cost effective to use them into the future," says Mike Pivac.

This time lapse video shows Hadrian in action:

Fastbrick Robotics: Hadrian 105 Time Lapse

Source: Fastbrick Robotics

25 comments
Scott in California
This is a vastly misleading article. You don't "build a house" simply by laying bricks. Where is the roof? Where is the floor? The walls are the least expensive part of the whole structure, so the fast laying of bricks is the least helpful in building a house. Right now, a crew of two or three people can erect a galvanized metal stud wall in a day or so, and all the equipment and material can be transported in a pickup truck! And it's all ready for insulation, electrical, and plumbing. A brick wall is impossibly contrary to building a house fast.
Paul Stregevsky
I have nothing against automation, but can we stop pretending that automating blue-collar work creates more jobs than it eliminates?
Guy Macher
Great, a faster way of doing something stupid. Bricks are an expensive, albeit long lasting, paint. Let's program robots to build steel frame buildings or build slip-form concrete ones. I will say the precision of the boom is impressive. Let's exploit a higher use.
boomer
For those hot Australian summers that sap a brick-layers energy this has to be a benefit.With an aging population averaging fifty in the brick layer trade this form of robot has to appeal to the current younger generation looking to do a trade the modern way.A job lost to a robot is replaced by a job for a human to repair and maintenance robots, so it should be a win for humans...
f8lee
@Maryland - as with many other areas of life, technological innovations are going to replace wholesale scads of human workers, and unlike prior eras there will be no jobs for them to migrate to (unlike the farmhands who moved to the cities to work in factories 100 years ago as technology replaced them). But there is no going back, other than a global Luddite-like revolt against everything tech (and what would all those Twitter-users say about that?) - so as a society we are going to have to come up with a new paradigm as to what gives one self-worth.
Rot
Some good comments. Agree we should stop pretending automation creates net jobs. That doesn't mean automation is bad. Agree that brick veneer is expensive paint but I took the article to imply that the houses were actually brick construction rather than brick veneer. I assume the machines have some way of creating passages for plumbing and electrical conduit. If they don't, that's a serious design failure. Overall, I'd give this a seven on the cool factor scale.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
I am 68 and have never seen a brick house being built!
Buellrider
Why doesn't this show the actual mortaring the bricks together like a human has to do. Stacking bricks is one thing and mortaring them layer by layer is a whole other banana. Not saying they can't do it but this article sure doesn't show it happening. 20 years from now there won't be a job a robot is being built to do. Then robots will eventually be building other robots for their own purposes. Certainly even a fool can see that robots will make humans obsolete. Probably for the best considering that we have made such a mess of this planet. Chances are that robots will not destroy each other because of religious reasons.
Nelson
You got to love how technology makes a thousand people obsolete and then burdens the Earth with a couple thousand more humans.
Kevin Ritchey
Would go over big in L.A. when the walls come tumblin' down!
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