Skanska UK has been awarded a £709,000 government grant to develop the use of robots for onsite and offsite construction.
The funding has been awarded by Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of their collaborative R&D programme, and will help move the development of construction robots into the future.
The two and a half year project, Flexible Robotic Assembly Modules for the Built Environment (FRAMBE) will get underway in October this year. The robotic construction units will be designed to carry out several tasks, including cutting, drilling and fixing on site.
Sam Stacey, Skanska’s head of innovation, said, “The overarching aim is introduce robotics to construction. The first stage of this project will be to identify the specific tasks we want to address. We will then pilot the machinery needed for one or more of these opportunities. The final stage of the project will be to pilot the processes that will need to be implemented.
“We are confident that [by the time the project concludes] we will have produced a framework for how to introduce robotics into a project, along with demonstrating how specific techniques can be used for construction," he said.
It is anticipated that the robots will also be deployed in mobile “flying” factories to allow near-site manufacture in controlled conditions. These temporary factories close to the work site would potentially remove the effects of bad weather and other onsite hazards, speeding up the assembly of the building on site. This could be a huge leap forward for the construction industry on a global scale.
“We are delighted to have been awarded this grant. Robotics in construction is an unknown field and provides great opportunities. A robot to drill and fix to the underside of slabs, for example, would eliminate a lot of work at height in dusty, noisy environments,” said Stacey.
Skanska will be heading up the research consortium, which includes ABB Robotics, a division of engineering giant ABB, to create the automated construction units.