Are Construction Robots the future for the Industry?
Their process turned out to be faster, safer, and more environmentally friendly than manual construction. The DFAB House was built near Zurich, and is the first-ever habitable home to have been constructed entirely of digital fabrication methods. The DFAB House is a collaborative exercise of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, on the NEST building of Empa and Eawag. It is part of a full-featured building project, where researchers from eight ETH Zurich professorships came together with other industry and planning experts to explore unique methods and test how digital fabrication could change the way we design and build.
The three-level building features 3D-printed ceilings, timber beams assembled on-site by robots, energy-efficient walls, and intelligent home systems. It measures 220 square metres, and has already passed all the strict Swiss building codes and planning laws.
How they built the DFAB house
The DFAB House was built using predominantly digital methods, both on and off-site. Construction work began with the Mesh Mould technology implementation, where robots fabricated a steel reinforcement mesh to serve as the formwork and reinforcement for load-bearing concrete structures.
A pre-fabricated slab was then installed on top of the wall, after which Smart Dynamic Casting technology was used for the ground floor façade. The two upper floors were prefabricated off-site, and assembled by cooperating robots on site.
The robots were mounted on the ceilings of a factory, where they cut, drilled and positioned the wooden members of the frame. The building was also fitted with Smart Home technology to control its mechanical systems, security and lighting.
How robots will change the building industry
Erecting new buildings is ranked as one of the most inefficient, polluting activities. However, this could change in the future thanks to building robots.
For one, robots will drastically reduce the time it takes to build homes. A typical home can take up to a year to build, but with the help of robots and prefabricated materials, homes could be built in days.
Post-construction cleaning companies also won’t have to do as much to prepare robot-built houses for occupation as they do for conventional homes. This is because there is less wastage of building materials, and since robots are doing everything, the site is less messy.
The designs of buildings are also set to become more complex, thanks to the robots. Architects are usually limited by what human builders can make, but with robots, all kinds of new possibilities will open up.
The DFAB house roof, for example, features flowing, organic ridges that look like they were created by a giant insect. The 3D-printed ceiling also has intricate designs that might be impossible to achieve using human hands
Robots are being built to handle all sorts of construction tasks especially the heavy, dull and repetitive ones.
With more collaboration between researchers and key players in the construction industry, could we be looking at a future where all homes will be built by robots from start to finish?