Perth engineer invents world’s first robotic bricklayer
By Mara Fox
A robotic, fully-automated machine is being developed in Perth, a world-first that could raise the brick shell of a new home within two days.
It can work 24 hours, 365 days — compared to the human variety who can put in anywhere from four to six weeks of backbreaking work for a typical home.
Local inventor Mark Pivac, an aeronautic and mechanical engineer, said his interest in the idea of developing the robot was sparked during Perth’s bricklaying crisis of 2005.
“People have been laying bricks for about 6000 years and ever since the industrial revolution, they have tried to automate the bricklaying process,” Mr Pivac told PerthNow.
“We’re at a technological nexus where a few different technologies have got to the level where it’s now possible to do it, and that’s what we’ve done.”
“Hadrian” the robot — named after the famous Roman defensive wall of antiquity — will be commercialised first in WA, then nationally and then globally.
Laying 1000 bricks per hour, it can work day and night, with the potential to erect 150 homes a year.
It works by creating a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) laying program of a house or structure, then calculates the location of every brick and creates a program that is used to cut and lay the bricks in sequence from a single, fixed location.
A 28m articulated telescopic boom goes to work and mortar or adhesive is delivered under pressure to the robotic laying head and applied to the brick which is then laid in the correct sequence as per the program. The robot de-hacks, measures, scans for quality and cuts to length the bricks and routs for electrical and other services.
Mr Pivac’s father was a mining surveyor so he grew up around measuring instruments from a young age.
Working for the Air Force, the engineer says he was “exposed to some pretty nice high technology, really modern manufacturing methods, instrumentation and a lot of complex systems”.
But it was while working in the area of computer-controlled machinery and witnessing the shortage of Perth bricklayers that the idea of a bricklaying robot really took hold.
Nearly two billion bricks are manufactured a year in Australia, which added fuel to the fire of the inventor’s imagination.
The project has been 10 years in the making and Mr Pivac said it had been a team effort.
“We have absolutely nothing against bricklayers,” Mr Pivac said.
“The problem is the average age of bricklayers is going up and it’s difficult to attract new young people to the trade.”
This week, investment company DMY Capital Limited announced its conditional agreement to acquire 100 per cent of Australian robotic building technology company, Fastbrick Robotics, the company set up by Mr Pivac and his cousin, Mike Pivac.
DMY chairman Gabriel Chiappini said: “We were immediately excited by the opportunity and see an enormous potential both domestically and later globally.”
More than $7m has been spent on developing “Hadrian” to date.
Fastbrick Robotics said it had received significant support from both Federal government grants and major industry parties such as Brickworks Ltd, a group of Australian-owned companies centred on clay and concrete products.
ABN Group Managing Director Dale Alcock has helped in an advisory capacity.
“Housing affordability in Australia is of critical importance and is at the centre of political debate,” Mr Alcock said.
“While most agree that increasing supply is a realistic and logical solution, further consideration must be given to how we go about achieving this in more cost-effective and efficient ways.
“Australia’s Fastbrick Robotics is at the forefront of construction automation and its innovative robotic bricklaying technology has the potential to service the overwhelming demand for housing, quicker and cheaper than ever before.
“I’m excited to see the company gain further funding support and look forward with great anticipation as the company progresses its technology to commercialisation.”
About the Author
Mara Fox is a Journalist at News Corporation.
This article was originally published in PerthNow. This content has been republished with the permission of the publisher.