Little Brother - Coming to a Construction Site Near You!
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been bringing you news of the very latest developments in the field of brick laying – namely robots! First it was Follow the Yellow Brick Road, introducing the Tiger Stone paving machine that lays down brick roads at a rate of 300 square metres a day. Then last week we brought you news of the Denizen from Down Under, namely Hadrian, a robot that builds houses in super quick time and could probably solve the housing shortage and the refugee crisis in one (or two) fell swoops! Today, ladies and gentlemen, the spotlight is on Hadrian’s little brother, SAM (short for semi-automated mason), a robotic brick layer that works alongside human brick layers in New York.
SAM does the boring, repetitive routine work while its human team mate handles the more skilled stuff. SAM can pick up bricks, slap on the mortar and place the bricks in the right locations while his human takes care of the more complex tasks such as setting up the worksite, laying bricks in the trickier areas (such as corners) and attending to the aesthetic details like cleaning up excess mortar.
SAM is amazingly adaptable and has been designed to cope with real life scenarios on a building site. SAM can complete precise and level work while mounted on a scaffold that sways slightly in the wind and is able to correct for the difference between theoretical building specifications and what’s actually on the site. According to Scott Peters, co-founder of Construction Robotics, SAM’s “parent” company, the design plans may state that a window is located exactly 30 feet from the corner of a building while, in reality, nothing is ever precisely where it’s supposed to be. Brick layers know how to adapt to that so SAM had to be designed to be able to adapt too.
At present, SAM is best suited to work on large areas of flat walls, most commonly found on large building projects like hospitals, office buildings, universities, etc. . However, SAM also has a few tricks up his sleeve – he can bump bricks in or out by about half an inch to create a textured wall face. He can also add a company logo in brick on a wall. He’s able to do all of these detailed tasks by using a set of algorithms, sensors that measure incline angles, velocity and orientation and a laser. The laser is set up between two poles on either side of SAM’s workspace and moves up and down the wall as the work progresses, acting as an anchor point for this canny robot. Without the laser, SAM wouldn’t have a clue where to lay bricks or how to assess its motion on a scaffold relative to where the wall is.
While Hadrian is still in the prototype stage, SAM has joined the workforce on a number of New York building sites where he’s helping to increase productivity alongside his human counterparts.