This robot could build much of your next house in just two days — replacing weeks of work by masons

Opinion: This robot could build much of your next house
Published: Nov 1, 2016 2:45 p.m. ET


The next invasion of the robots may be in the construction industry, when Hadrian X, a robot named after Roman emperor Hadrian (of Hadrian’s Wall fame), may soon laying bricks far faster and more cheaply than any human can.

Once commercially available, this amazing robot will be capable of laying approximately 1,000 bricks per hour, which means that it could build the entire shell of a building in just two days, rather than four to six weeks of hard labor needed for a human crew to complete the same task.

Hadrian X is the second iteration of the house-building robot from Australia-based Fastbrick Robotics Ltd. that could disrupt the $1.3 trillion global construction market and slash the cost of construction. The first one, a “technology demonstrator” called Hadrian 105, could provide an output of “only” 225 bricks per hour, so its successor would represent a substantial upgrade.

Aside from laying bricks much faster than its older cousin, Hadrian X will make sure they fit perfectly by grinding, milling, cutting and routing different brick sizes to where they belong on the project. And it will be able to do it all without human intervention — or even moving around the job site.

That may be bad news for masonry, an industry whose job prospects are now much better than the average of all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It has forecast that masonry jobs will increase 15% in the decade through 2024 as population growth leads to the construction of more homes, hospitals, schools and other building.

Before laying a single brick, Hadrian X will assess the 3-D layout of the structure being built, calculating the location and size of each brick needed. After bricks have been loaded into Hadrian’s truck, they will be cut as needed and treated with construction adhesive, which, Fastbrick Robotics claims, will improve the building speed as well as building’s strength and thermal efficiency.

The bricks then travel along the conveyor belt within the robot’s telescopic arm and are placed with great precision (0.5mm laying accuracy), thanks to a laser guidance system. The robot is being configured to leave enough space for windows, doors, plumbing and wiring, making other steps of the building process cheaper and simpler.

Hadrian X will revolutionize the bricklaying industry and cut six to eight weeks off the construction time required to build a home, claims Michael Pivac, Fastbrick Robotics’ CEO. His background is business operations management.

His cousin Mark Pivac, the company’s chief technology officer, is the primary inventor of the Fastbrick’s automated bricklaying technology.

Fastbrick Robotics has already spent close to $7 million on research and development and raised $3 million from an IPO in November 2015 to fund commercialization. The goal is have a version of Hadrian X ready for commercial usage sometime in 2017. The company has disclosed a framework agreement with a Perth-based builder to construct brick homes using the Hadrian X prototype. End-to-end construction of a full-scale house is expected to be demonstrated next year as well, and a commercial roll out is expected to follow soon after.

Before jumping aboard the Hadrian X hype train, remember that Fastbrick’s latest project still faces quite a few obstacles. The robot isn’t out yet, and the technology it demonstrates hasn’t been fully tested in a real-world scenario. Then there’s the issue of Hadrian X’s final price and the affordability. All these, as well as any unforeseen technical issues, should provide plenty reasons to approach this invention not only with curiosity, but also with patience and caution.


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