The robots are coming


International design, engineering and advisory company Aurecon has introduced robotics technology into constructing Murdoch University’s Building 360 in a world-first trial, in collaboration with major partners Murdoch University and University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

The building is set to become Western Australia’s largest mass-engineered-timber (MET) building upon completion.

Conceptualised by Aurecon, the robots have been uniquely designed by UTS researchers to deliver cumbersome screw fixings. This task can cause fatigue and injury in workers given the repetitive and labour-intensive nature of this work.

A technology-rich building to accommodate up to 60 per cent of the university’s teaching requirements, Building 360 will be a demonstration of Murdoch’s commitment to sustainability, aiming for a 6 Star Green Star rating once complete.

Aurecon’s managing director, Built Environment Australia, Tim Spies, said the pilot robotics project with Murdoch University and UTS showed that by thinking more innovatively the timber industry could lead the way in improving project outcomes across the broader construction industry.

“The project’s immediate objective is focused on proof of concept, to demonstrate the robot’s capability of installing screw fixings in an accurate manner,” said Spies.

“The long-term objective is to prove that the modular nature of timber construction will benefit from the automation of some onsite construction activity, helping to increase productivity, reduce cost, improve workers’ OH&S, and advance innovation in the construction industry.”

Distinguished Professor of the UTS Robotics Institute, Dikai Liu, said intelligent robots are changing construction. “Construction sites are varied, complex and changing—and that can be a real challenge for a robot to navigate and conduct operations such as drilling a screw into the right position,” Professor Liu said.

“What we have been able to design is an intelligent robot that can focus on an important task even amidst this disruptive environment.”

There are around 200,000 to 300,000 screw fixings on the Building 360 construction site and the robots have been trialed installing approximately 50 to 100 fixings as part of the proof of concept.