Robot Bricklayer Unveiled In East Yorkshire

Burflex House, Clay Street, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU8 8HA E.

Burflex House, Clay Street, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU8 8HA E.

Robot Bricklayer Unveiled In East Yorkshire

Robot Bricklayer Unveiled In East Yorkshire

An East Yorkshire robotics company is revolutionising the housebuilding industry with the creation of the UK’s first home built by a robot. Instead of bricklayers and labourers, the house is being built by Pocklington-based Construction Automation’s Automatic Brick Laying Robot (ABLR) – an innovative piece of technology that has been four years in development.

However, the BBC reports that union Unite says that the robot technology could pose a serious threat to jobs, and ‘could be a recipe for mass unemployment and rising inequality’.

In a world’s first, the robot will lay all the bricks, blocks, and mortar, and is the first machine of its type that can build around corners. This means it can construct an entire house without stopping.

Construction Automation was formed in May 2016 by entrepreneurs David Longbottom and Stuart Parkes. They built on the work that Stuart had done in nuclear construction and subsea pipe laying.

David said: “The house will contain around 10,000 bricks and will take the ABLR about two weeks to build. It is the first house in the UK to be built by a robot, and possibly the first in the world.”

He explained that the ABLR consists of the robot and a sophisticated software control system that translates digital versions of the architectural plans into instructions for the robot, so it knows exactly where to lay the bricks.

In building a structure this way, only two people are needed to work on each house – a labourer to load bricks and mortar into the robot, and a skilled person to install tie bars, damp courses, and lintels, and to do the pointing.

The control system sends out alerts when these stages are reached, and then takes a photograph of the completed task to form a complete digital record.

According to Stuart, the advantages of the ABLR include increased productivity, high-quality homes, and improved health and safety on site.

He explained that although standard bricks should be a uniform size, there is variation in them. The ABLR system uses sensors to measure each brick and then to line it up on the wall so it is in precisely the right position.

The robot is mounted on a track that is placed around the footprint of the house, that has in-built vertical lift meaning the machine can build to the height of a standard two-storey house.

Construction Automation has already secured a patent in the USA on the technology, and a European and UK patent is expected to follow shortly. David added that once the ABLR had completed this house and several other test properties, the company will be ready to go into full production.

He said that the ultimate goal is to automate the housebuilding industry as much as possible, hoping to increase productivity for the industry, improve health and safety, and guarantee quality. 

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham, emphasising the importance of unionising in the industry said: “With strong unions, we can ensure that new technology delivers for everyone.”

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