In the year 122, the Roman emperor Hadrian began building a stone wall that would eventually stretch more than 70 miles across Northern England. Constructed as a defensive fortification around the Roman-controlled province of Britannia, the wall took about six years to build; parts of it still stand and are a popular tourist attraction in England today.
Today, Hadrian’s namesake is building walls at a much faster rate – much faster than any human can, in fact. Hadrian 105 is a robot developed by Australian company Fastbrick Robotics, and it’s capable of laying bricks at a rate of 225 bricks per hour. For a human to lay that many bricks, it would take about half a day – and the Hadrian 105 is just a precursor for a much larger and faster robot to be named Hadrian X, which Fastbrick Robotics is currently working on.
The company describes the robots as “3D automated robotic bricklaying technology.” It’s not exactly the same as most 3D printing techniques we’re used to seeing, as the bricks are already made – no raw materials are being extruded or sintered. It does meet the definition of additive manufacturing, though, as material is being deposited, one layer at a time, following a computer aided design.
The whole process is automated. Bricks are fed onto a conveyor belt that travels along a long robotic arm, or telescopic boom. The bricks travel along the boom and are gripped by a clawlike device that lays them out methodically, directed by a laser guiding system. Until the brick shell is finished and the house’s other elements need to be added, the structure never needs to be touched by human hands.
There are a lot of advantages to such a system – reduced time, reduced cost, and reduced waste, plus improved safety. The adjustable arm can accommodate bricks of any size, and it’s extremely accurate. The Hadrian X is expected to drastically improve upon the current model, too, with a bricklaying speed of 1,000 bricks per hour. All necessary materials will be delivered to the building site on a truck attached to the robotic arm.
Fastbrick Robotics plans to commercialize their patented technology, and they’re also developing an add-on for SOLIDWORKS software that uses 3D model data to create machine code for the size, cut, rotation and placement of the bricks.