Science 3 min read

3D Print an Entire Building, Then Have a Robot put on the Finishing Touches

Matjazz /

Matjazz /

Robotics and automation define new, more efficient ways of building. Among the most recent and interesting initiatives in this sense are SAM, the robot mason, and MIT’s 3D printed building system.

The construction industry faces efficiency and sustainability challenges. The need for innovative solutions in that regard is more felt than ever in a sector that’s one of the last with regards to adopting new technologies.

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The construction worksite is a source of many challenges facing the industry, such as efficiency and safety issues inherent to this hard-hatted work environment. To that end, automated solutions–of which some are already operational and others still in the experimental stage–suggest different approaches: from robot-aided systems for masons to machines that can 3D print an entire house.

SAM, the Brick-Laying Robotic Mason

Construction Robotics, CR, is a company based in New York that works to make the construction industry benefit from new technologies in the same way as manufacturing. CR develops automation and robotic systems designed to aid in masonry and construction.

CR boasts the first commercially available bricklaying robot, called the Semi-Automated Mason, or SAM for short. Specialized in laying bricks, SAM 100 is a $500,000 USD, semi-automated robot capable of laying 3,000 bricks per day, which is six times more than a human worker.

As long as it’s fed with bricks, and its mortar nozzle keeps pumping concrete, SAM keeps working incessantly. Now, it is already working on at least eight sites across the United States where it’s laying bricks at a rapid and unfluctuating pace.

MIT’s Digital Construction Platform

A 3D printing catalog would include a long list of workable materials including plastics and metals, glass and even food. Now, MIT researchers have expanded that list even further and designed an automated construction system that can build an entire building.

To be exact, the system builds the basic structure of a building, not the entire building, and thereby allows for the faster and cheaper fabrication of structures. An article on the technology was published last week in the Science Robotics journal.

MIT’s Digital Construction Platform is basically a giant mobile 3D printer capable of customized on-site construction of structures. The DCP consists of a compound arm system (hydraulic and electric robotic arms) mounted on a tracked mobile carrier.

The DCP system was tested and successfully manufactured a 14.6m in diameter, 3.7m-tall open dome structure in 13.5 hours. Compared to conventional construction techniques, and even current digital construction research projects, the DCP concept promises great gains in terms of costs, speed, safety, and quality.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

Comments (2)
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  1. julius rosen May 02 at 12:34 pm GMT

    I cant see how ut can meet all safety and quality concerns

    • Brett Forsberg May 02 at 3:26 pm GMT

      That’s probably a smart consideration. I’ll be sure to look into whether that has been considered by these two innovators.

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