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New facility to develop construction robots

A new research initiative aims to use robotic technology to improve the Australian construction industry’s productivity and quality.

A new research initiative aims to use robots to improve the Australian construction industry’s productivity and quality.

An interdisciplinary team from seven Australian universities will develop an advanced facility based around structural assembly and construction automation.

It will feature flexible and adaptive design, and space for a team of collaborative robotics, in an interactive environment to achieve automated prefabrication, assembly and building.

The research hopes to transform the current labour-intensive construction industry to one that uses highly automated and accurate prefabrication processes, proving significant benefits to the economy and worker safety.

Professor Yu Bai from Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering will lead the team. The facility will build upon extensive research by Bai and colleagues on modular construction and composites for construction. When combined with robotic technology, this can result in faster, more precise, lower cost and higher-quality production outcomes.

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Bai said many industries, such as manufacturing and transport, had adopted automated practices to speed up, optimise, and economise production. However, the construction industry was lagging and not yet well taking advantage of such technological advancements.

“Robotic technology has made significant progress in a number of industry domains in the last several years and construction can benefit from this advancement. The use of robotic technology can be a game-changing step as seen in other industries such as aerospace and automobile engineering,” Bai said.

“It means the transformation of on-site prototype construction to made-to-measure structural production and the elevation of prefabrication and off-site manufacturing into automated processes.

“Furthermore, automating traditional construction approaches can remove workers’ exposure to unsafe tasks and hazardous work environments.”

The facility will cover structural design for manufacturing and assembly, lightweight structural materials and connections, construction planning and safety, sensing and monitoring, building information modelling and digital asset management, optimisation of structures and assembly, automation and informatics, and robotic systems and human-robot interaction.

The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Australian Government’s Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) program.

“We’re grateful to the Australia Government’s LIEF program for its support behind our vision to benefit the building industry so it is safer for workers, more environmentally sustainable and, above all, more affordable for consumers,” Bai said.

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