Automated construction companies boast the ability to make a small home in a day.
It’s the future of construction, according to world-leading robotic fabrication expert Lauren Vasey.
However, there are two big hurdles standing in the way of automated fabrication.
“Building systems have been designed from very specific human assembly and dexterity. We position large things on site with large construction equipment but most processes are done by hand,” Vasey said.
This could change with the greater range of motions and carrying abilities provided by machines.
Which takes us to the second hurdle – designing machines that are up to the job.
“What are the ideal robots that would really enable automation on a building site? Right now we have basically taken robots from other industries, like the automotive industry or manufacturing, and tried to throw them at architecture.”
Vasey said the construction industry and architects had not embraced automation.
“We are throwing new experimental methods in academia, but ultimately we want to make the case that there’s a huge economic incentive for new models of collaboration.”
The likes of carpenters and bricklayers don’t need to worry about job security, according to Vasey.
“They can have the robots do the things they don’t want to do, they can start focusing on things that are more satisfying. I see a future where robots are working next to humans.”
Her projects, which include assisting in the creation of research pavilions at the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart, can appear as sci-fi feats of engineering.
Automated arms commandeered from the automotive industry team up with drones to create structures inspired by spider webs and silk worms.
“Some of our projects are very speculative and tell a story of what could happen without necessarily reaching a certain robustness that would be needed on a construction site.
“But the realities of what would work and wouldn’t work become evident in our processes. Ultimately we are trying to make a case for others to take up the research later.”
There is inspiration to be drawn from natural builders like spiders, as much as there is from science, according to Vasey.
“The structure that they build have an amazing degree of performance, even when something unexpected is happening. Say someone cuts one of the spider web elements, they have these innate behaviours to react.”
“When we build now we have these rigid plans and blueprints that tell us what we want to build, but if something unknown happens or something unexpected happens you really have no recourse.”
Women are still under represented in robotics, Vasey said, a fact she was making efforts to change.
“There’s a definite glass ceiling, it’s more prevalent in some areas than others.”