Bricks & Blocks 229 views Sep 02, 2017
Will robots eventually replace humans on building sites?

Most people in the construction industry are aware of the enormous skills shortage in all of the building trades. Bricklaying is no exception and there are many anecdotal reports of brick layers earning the equivalent of a “Kings Ransom” as main contractors compete for their skills.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that engineers have now developed robots to replace bricklayers and word is that they can do the job six times as fast and could eventually do away with the need to employ humans.

Australian company Fastbrick Robotics - https://www.fbr.com.au/ has developed a proof of concept for a commercial bricklaying machine called Hadrian X. Using computer aided design, the Hadrian X robotic bricklayer is able to handle the automatic loading, cutting, routing and placement of all bricks to build a complete structure. The company claims it can build a four bedroomed house in just two days without any human assistance.

In America, a company called Construction Robotics - http://www.construction-robotics.com/ - has developed the SAM100, a bricklaying robot designed to work with a human bricklayer by assisting with the repetitive and strenuous tasks of lifting and placing each brick.

It’s said that the bricklayer will continue to be responsible for the site setup and final wall quality, but will be able to improve his or her efficiency through the operation of SAM. However, robots like this can lay six times as many bricks a day as human builders and some commentators are seriously suggesting that humans will soon be few and far between on building sites.

There are reports that SAM100 is already beginning to replace humans on a handful of sites in America, and Construction Robotics has said that it is hoping to introduce these robots into Britain very soon.

While many may now be thinking that “Terminator” is about to become science fact it is reassuring to emphasise that SAM, for the moment, only has the ability to pick up bricks, apply mortar and lay them. 

The robot needs to be heavily supervised by humans who have to set up the machines, supervise health and safety and assist with laying bricks at difficult angles, as well as clearing up.

But with advances in technology the commentators could be proved right in the long term with robots replacing all human craft skills - it’s a bleak thought.

By John Ridgeway  

Follow me on Twitter @JohnRidgeway99