Minibuilders – If you explore it carefully, the process by which we construct our buildings and create our cities isn’t exactly ideal. Even though the design process is completely digital and makes use of the most sophisticated tools available, actual construction is slow, inefficient, and fraught with problems. Some organizations have turned to 3D printing to solve the problem, but that’s not exactly a practical solution, either – the equipment involved in such a process needs to be positively enormous to actually function as necessary.
So…how exactly do we bring the construction process from the 20th century into the 21st?
The answer lies – as it seems to with so many other problems these days – in the world of robotics. A group of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia is currently working on a robotic swarm called Minibuilders that could quickly and inexpensively construct buildings of any size. Not only that, they could do so with unprecedented speed, shoring up the structure nearly as fast as it can be designed.
Working in teams, the Minibuilders robots excrete material that hardens into the building’s shell. Foundation robots move around on the track, building up the structure’s first twenty layers, at which point a series of ‘grip’ robots clamp onto the building’s sides in order to add more layers, ceilings, and frames for doors and windows. At the end of the process, vacuum robots add one last layer to reinforce everything.
It’s basically 3D printing without a 3D printer.
If you want to make an object as big as a stadium or a skyscraper you’ll need to design a machine bigger than that object in at least one axis,” explained researchers Petr Novikov and Sasa Jokic. “Making such machines isn’t economically reasonable, sustainable, and, in some cases, simply impossible due to their size.”
“The robots can work simultaneously while performing different tasks, and having a fixed size they can create objects of virtually any scale, as far as material properties permit,” they continued. “They are extremely easy to transport to the site. All these features make them incredibly efficient and reduce environmental footprint of construction.”
Eventually, the researchers envision these Minibuilders robots being used to tackle every single step of the construction process, including heat, lighting, and plumbing.
Minibuilders Robot Construction Teams | Gallery