An alliance for the future: Wienerberger Czech Republic has teamed up with partners from the engineering and university sectors to develop a mobile masonry robot. This new automated construction solution should enable large brick buildings to be erected quickly, safely and efficiently. The project was launched in February 2021.
Cutting-edge robot technologies at Wienerberger
The use of innovative solutions is a crucial element of Wienerberger’s corporate strategy. In an age of digitalization, high demand for affordable housing and a shortage of skilled workers, the construction industry is facing major challenges. As an innovation leader in the industry, Wienerberger sees a high potential of automation in prefabrication and in the construction sector. Such solutions enable housing construction projects to be completed faster and more cost-effectively with the added advantage that the technology requires fewer resources and is less labor-intensive.
Proof of concept: tests proved the potential
A demonstration model of the mobile robot was tested by Wienerberger Czech Republic and the start-up KM Robotics on a construction site near Prague in July and October 2020. Excellent results with high quality execution were already achieved. “The robot achieved a laying speed comparable to that of a team of five bricklayers”, explains Meysam Taghavi, Prefabrication & Robotics Specialist at Wienerberger. “In the future, the mobile robot should become even faster, ensuring an efficient construction process and in full compliance with health & safety regulations.”
The project, which will run for two and a half years, was officially launched in February 2021 and is being initiated by Wienerberger Czech Republic, KM Robotics and the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) at the Czech Technical University in Prague. The development focus is now on making the robot even more dynamic, intelligent and faster to support the construction of apartment blocks, commercial buildings and the erection of partition walls.
In the future, the mobile robot should become even faster, ensuring a sustainable, easy and safe construction process.
Challenges successfully solved
The masonry robot developed in the Czech Republic sits on a standard industrial-robot platform and places the bricks in their final location on site. “The biggest challenge in general for construction robots is that industrial robots are not originally developed for construction and the robot therefore first had to be made compatible for use in the building sector,” says Meysam Taghavi.
Another challenge is cost-effectiveness. “We can build a really fantastic high-tech robot. But if the development costs are too high for the market, it won’t be deployed.” Taghavi and the team are therefore working to come up with solutions. After the launch in the Czech Republic, the mobile construction robot could be gradually introduced from 2024 onwards in other Wienerberger markets.
With digital technologies on the pulse of time
The use of robotics is part of Wienerberger’s digitalization strategy. Virtual tools such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) facilitate the planning and implementation of projects. The prefabrication of brick walls and the use of robots on construction sites makes construction processes faster, more precise and more sustainable. Far less waste is produced for example than with traditional construction methods. Furthermore, the building process, costs and delivery times are easier to plan.
The market for prefabrication and robotics solutions is growing rapidly. Wienerberger will therefore continue to expand the development and use of digital technologies in close cooperation with stakeholders – from construction companies to engineers and architects. "Ideally, we create a win-win situation for all parties involved", says Taghavi. "The team on site also benefits from a healthier, safer and more modern digital working environment."
Moreover, robotics also help Wienerberger address key challenges of the future, such as increasing urbanization, affordable green living and smart buildings. The company will therefore continue to pioneer masonry automation on the market in years to come.