As a structure comes together on the job site, construction can be very rewarding work, but it’s probably safe to say that no one enjoys all that heavy lifting and repetitive lugging of building materials.


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So why not let a robot do the work? That’s the question that Zurich-based architects have posed with the development of the In-situ Fabricator.

The In-situ Fabricator is an autonomous robot designed to aid the construction process by lifting and laying bricks. With its mechanical arm, the new robot is able to grip heavy materials like bricks and cement blocks and carefully lay them in place according to a pre-set program.

It’s been called “the first machine that can actually go in construction sites and build non-standard designs.”

Credit: Mukszwei

Autonomous Technology On The Job Site
The In-situ Fabricator is not the first example of how autonomous technology is and will be employed on a construction site. Development of drone-guided bulldozers and other construction vehicles is already well underway to combat labor shortages in Japan.

In Amsterdam, a new bridge will be built by robotic 3D printers that appear to weave impressively stable structures out of thin air. The In-situ Fabricator, however, has been specifically designed to be self-contained and integrate into a building site alongside humans.

Automatically Adapting
Through an on-board computer, series of sensors, a 2D laser range finder, and specialized computer algorithms, the robot is able to build a 3D map of the job site and link its structural building plan with environment in which its placed and then go to work.

This system also enables the In-situ Fabricator to autonomously adapt its work based on the physical realities of a job site.  An additional on-board computer controls the robot’s arm as it lifts and places building materials.

Credit: Luka Peternel

Aiding Humans Or Replacing Them?
Considering these adaptable features and capabilities, it’s no surprise that current construction workers might be nervous that the In-situ Fabricator will eliminate human employment opportunities on the job site.

The creators have assured that the In-situ Fabricator robots are meant to make life easier for human construction workers by reducing job site planning time and easing extent of physical labor, and are meant to collaborate with skilled human workers, not replace them.

It’s something we’ve heard before as robots also go to work on factory floors, in retail locations, and other workplaces. As in those cases, it’s likely that utilization of autonomous technology will increase in the coming years, but will it be the projected labor boon or feared burden for humans who are no longer needed for their abilities?

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

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