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FBR (Fastbrick Robotics)
Bringing robots to the construction site with an automated bricklaying system.
Technology is rapidly changing the way we work in all walks of life… typists and switchboard operators have long been replaced, bank clerks and librarians are a dying breed and new technologies on the horizon are looking to make copywriters and professional drivers obsolete. However, most building structures are still erected the same way they were two hundred years ago. FBR and the robotic construction industry are looking to reinvent the bricklaying process using unmanned robotic technology, changing the world, brick by brick.
Robots are already a pillar of modern manufacturing, but until now they never made it outside of the factory hall. Sure there is already a lot of heavy machinery being used at the construction site, but the precision tasks are still mostly done by humans. Fastbrick Robotics (FBR) has built a robot, called the Hadrian X, that takes these techniques to the outside world and allows for automated and precise on-site robotic bricklaying.
imagery courtesy FBR
The Hadrian X reaches a speed of over 200 blocks per hour and can work days and nights. It also has the ability to lay curved walls and can build up to two floors high. Waste can be reduced compared to traditional methods because the block layout is pre-computed and no scaffolding during construction is needed.
Rather than selling the robots, FBR’s business model is based on the existing way of working too: delivering built walls. They already trademarked the term Waas or Wall As A Service for their commercial offering.
As earlier noted in our Modelur post, countries around the globe suffer a housing shortage. Post COVID-19 initiatives are almost certainly going to pop up aimed at relieving this deficit. Without innovation, it seems unlikely that any goals will be met, especially in an environment where skilled laborers are already scarce. The Hadrian X promises to drive efficiency on the construction site while providing safer and physically less demanding working conditions, which could be instrumental, not only in speeding up construction but also in keeping it affordable.
👎 Why not?
Even though improving efficiency is a worthwhile endeavor, it only offers an incremental improvement of the traditional building process. First-principles thinking would insinuate that there could be a better way to incorporate robotics into the building process, rather than imitating the way people have stacked bricks for centuries…
FBR has been around for quite some time, it was founded in 1994 by Mark Pivac, but his first prototype took until 2005 to be operational, and it was not until 2014 that the concept really got traction. Surfing on a renewed interest in robotic construction they IPO’ed in 2015. The last 5 years let them evolve the product to the solution they provide today, with various partnerships ( Wienerberger AG, Brickworks, …) and innovation awards (Gold Edison Award, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, …) under the belt.
🕵️♀️ Who else?
While FBR certainly catches the attention with its bricklaying system it’s far from the only company trying to use robotics on the building construction site.
Bricklaying is only part of the solution. Canvas is building a robot that can finish drywall faster.
Hausbots offers a robot that can climb up walls and paint them.
A Q-bot is a robot that allows adding insulation under suspended floors.
Dusty robotics builds a robot that translates BIM designs into full-size structural layouts on the deck for builders removing manual work and the chance of error mapping the plans.
Another precision construction job, tying rebar, is being automated by Advanced Construction Robotics.
Craft Robotics has a solution that removes mortar out of existing walls, utilizing computer vision to adapt to varying hardness.
📚 Further reading?
✨ Things happening
Interesting timeline from techcrunch on the downfall of the WeWork competitor Knotel… 2021 is becoming a SPAC-ial proptech year… Getting infatuated with clubhouse anyone interested in a proptechaweek room?…