space constraints, and the changing lay-
out of the site as construction progress-
es as factors that can make a construc-
tion site less than ideal for automation.
“There’s a shortage of skilled workers
that are going into the construction
trades, so what the SAM does is allow
each worker to be more productive.”
Podkaminer notes that while the ro-
bot is expensive, there has been a lot of
interest from contractors and masons
in renting the robot, which allows it to
be used by contractors that normally
wouldn’t have enough work to amor-
tize its approximately $500,000 pur-
chase price over a longer time horizon.
Still, despite the increasing use of
automation and 3D printing on the job
site, the construction industry is notoriously slow when it comes to adopting
new technology. This is largely due to
the highly regulated nature of construction, as well as the high cost of adopting
new technology, as Gardiner notes that
the 3D printer used to create the massive molds can cost $1 million.
“There are inexpensive 3D construction [concrete] printers around,” Gardiner says, “but these machines are
generally trading off accuracy and reliability to achieve their low cost. So,
one of the things that I see is that a
good concrete printer, a good construction 3D printer, will need to be
highly reliable, fast, and accurate. And
the problem with that is that a machine that has those things is generally
2011, Exploring the Emerging Design
Territory of Construction 3D printing –
Project Led Architectural Research,
Architecture & Design, RMIT University.
Building Codes, Underwriters Laboratories
Laing O’Rourke’s FreeFAB Technology
SAM100 OS 2.0
Keith Kirkpatrick is principal of 4K Research &
Consulting, LLC, based in Lynbrook, NY, USA.
© 2018 ACM 0001-0782/18/3 $15.00
In the future, Gardiner notes, 3D
printing will allow for a more streamlined use of materials, thanks to the
ability to print both structural and
decorative pieces of a building that
place material only where needed for
maximum strength, energy efficiency,
or form, or to help them fit into unusual or tight site constraints.
“At the moment, if you build a concrete wall or a brick wall, you’re putting
the same bulk material uniformly, regardless of where the stresses are on that
particular element,” Gardiner says, observing that 3D printing will allow architects to design building components
that put material only where they are absolutely needed, rather than simply adhering to a mass-produced shape.
It is not just 3D printing that is
poised to disrupt the construction industry. Created by New York-based
company Construction Robotics, a
bricklaying robot called SAM100 can
lay 3,000 bricks per day, effectively
multiplying a typical human bricklayer’s productivity of about 500 bricks
per day by six. The SAM100 (whose
name stands for “semi-automated
mason”) uses a conveyor belt, robotic
arm, and concrete pump to lay bricks.
The robot’s software ensures the robot can quickly choose between types
of bricks, quickly lay bricks in complicated patterns, and strictly adhere to
the building plan. However, the technology still requires a human operator
to smooth the concrete before placing
additional layers of bricks.
“Automation is popular in a controlled environment, but construction
sites are not very controlled environments,” says Zak Podkaminer, a marketing executive with Victor, N Y-based Construction Robotics. He cites weather
(such as rain, snow, and humidity),
A bricklaying robot
called SAM100 can
lay 3,000 bricks
a day, six times
as many as a typical
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