Bringing Robotics to the Construction Site to Manufacture the Future

On Site Robotics is a collaborative project of IAAC and TECNALIA, which demonstrates the potentials of additive manufacturing technology and robotics in the production of sustainable low-cost buildings that can be built on site with natural materials.

Combining technological advances in robotics (cable robot and drones), natural materials and CAD/CAM software, the aim of the project, which will be presented at Construmat 2017, is to bring automation to the construction site, as well as allowing the production of high-performance buildings and their monitoring in real-time during the construction.

The 3D Printing System presented in On Site Robotics is introduced to 3D print large-scale construction parts, and even small-scale buildings, made from natural materials. This system includes the cable robot Cogiro with an integrated CNC control, which is able to automate the movement of the 3D extruder with precision.

Thanks to the use of cables operated by servo-controlled winches with easy assembly, maintenance and reconfiguration, the printing can happen in a very wide range of workspaces, and even directly on the construction site.

The system also integrates an extruder and a natural, biodegradable, recyclable and local clay-based extrusion material, based on the Pylos project. In addition, a custom script integrated in the CAD software allows to easily translate the complex forms of 3D design in the robotic trajectories.

In addition, the On Site Robotics scenario integrates the use of drones programmed to fly autonomously. Its objective is to participate in the workflow, monitoring the development through multispectral cameras, which, thanks to computational processes, offer thermal information of the drying state of the structure.

This information is necessary to control the printing process, avoiding the superimposition of new layers of material on a still fresh and unstable base.

The Construction sector, which has traditionally been slow in integrating technology, is now opening up to digital manufacturing, 3D printing, and robotics. The possibility of printing anything that has been previously modelled in our computer lays the groundwork for a true change in the conception architectural production, and in the possibilities of personalising the final product.

The possible futures that open up thanks to this technology are many; from the printing material and the design of its shapes to the conception and production of the printing machine itself. CAD software used by architects and used for 3D printing allows the design of complex geometries, with the possibility of optimizing shapes, material distribution, and building behaviour, as well as manufacturing them in a quick and accurate way.

The tendency of 3D printing to print ever-larger pieces involves the use of machines or robots capable of accessing the construction site or large workspaces at accessible costs and with needed rigidity to guarantee the accuracy of the parts to be manufactured.

Here are the main advantages of using cable-driven robots for 3D printing in construction: having six degrees of freedom, being easily installable with simple foundations, requiring low maintenance, having a high useful space vs used space ratio, and having a cost not dependant on the size of the installation.

On Site Robotics

Additionally, the process of 3D printing in situ requires a continuous monitoring of the state of the deposited material, the three-dimensional structure, as well as the environmental conditions that might influence its behaviour. The aerial robots used in the construction site open new possibilities of real-time monitoring and direct communication between machines, people and built products.

The system developed in On-Site Robotics aims to revolutionize the construction sector, reducing production costs and offering the inviting possibility to customize the final product, that can be built on site or close to the site of construction.

So far an extruder for clay material has been developed, and in the near future, an extruder for the cementitious material will also be available. Thanks to the system presented, the automatic 3D printing of large architectural elements and small buildings is close to being a reality.

Credits of the Project

This is a collaborative project between Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia and Tecnalia

IAAC team (Concept, Coordination, Design, Extrusion, Material & Sensors): Areti Markopoulou, Aldo Sollazzo, Alexandre Dubor, Edouard Cabay, Raimund Krenmueller, Ji Won Jun, Tanuj Thomas, Kunal Chadha, Sofoklis Giannakopoulos.

Tecnalia Team (Cable Robot) : Technology – CoGiro

TECNALIA Cable Robotics team: Mariola Rodríguez, Jean-Baptiste Izard, Pierre-Elie Herve, Valérie Auffray, David Culla, Jose Gorrotxategi.

TECNALIA Construction Division team: Mikel Barrado, Idurre Fernandez, Juan José Gaitero, Elena Morales, Iñigo Calderón, Amaia Aramburu.

Other partners:

Noumena Team [Drone development, Data collection]: Starsky Lara, Chirag Rangholia, Daniele Ingrassia (Fab Lab Kamp Lintfort), Marco Sanalitro, Eugenio Bettucchi, Andrea Melis, Adrien Rigobello

LIRMM (Robot research center), Luciano Carrizza (Technical adviser), Joaquim Melchor, Art Cont (Material expert), Lenze (Automation), Wam (Solid process), NanoSystem (Material nanotechnology), Nicolas Weyrich (Video animation).