Could brickies get a robot helper?

OSCR 3 - photo: Paul Qaysi

Robots could hold the answer to the shortage of bricklayers in construction, if research under way at the University of Buffalo in the USA proves successful. A team of architects and engineers at the university are in the early stages of an initiative aimed at designing, building and programming a suite of tools that will, the university reports, not only improve the life of the bricklayer but also break new ground for architecture and robotics.

The researchers have produced a series of robots, called OSCR – which stands for On-Site Construction Robot. The latest robot – just 18 inches tall – has been designed to climb a ladder and carry three bricks, and it is expected that the final prototype will be able to stack five bricks, walk, crawl and scan the site for materials.

The scientists expect these mini-machines to aid rather than replace human bricklayers. Michael Silver, assistant professor of architecture at the university said, “Masons are a skilled class in high demand, but it’s getting harder to find people to support them by doing the difficult work of lugging heavy materials around a site. Our tools will actually advance the mason’s skills and create more time for craft by automating more tedious aspects of the job.”

The initiative has a long way to go before robot bricklayers start appearing on sites, but the university reports that research is progressing. In the latest phase of the work, researchers are developing ‘smart glasses’ that will wirelessly link the bricklayer, robot and building information models.

Photo of OSCR3 above by Paul Qaysi

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