When Jobsite covered the story back in March of a breakthrough construction technology – a bricklaying robot called Hadrian X – it was still in the development stage. Fast forward eight months: the world’s only fully-automated, bricklaying solution is now on the cusp of becoming commercially available, according to its developer Fastbrick Robotics Limited,(ASX:FBR).
The Western-Australia based company recently released a video of its one-armed bricklaying robot building a house in a mere three days. No sooner had it debuted the video, than Hadrian X was moved to a top-secret location amid fears of hacking and spying by competitors keen to access the technology and get to market first. The catalyst for the shift to James Bond-style secrecy was when a car with two GoPro cameras taped to the roof drove in the company’s yard and through the factory. The footage captured was posted on a share market tipping site within minutes of the breach.
“There’s a roundabout near where our secret facility is, and we make our people go around a couple of times, make sure they’re not being tailed"
The staff have been briefed not to wear any identifying clothing, such as company-branded shirts. They have also been asked to ensure they were not followed from FBR HQ to the top secret location.
“There’s a roundabout near where our secret facility is, and we make our people go around a couple of times, make sure they’re not being tailed, and then off they go,” said FBR CEO Mike Pivac. “No one in the last six months has worn a single bit of clothing that identifies them as an FBR employee to this facility.”
With U.S. giant Caterpillar having the option to buy $US10 million ($AU13.5 million) in shares at $0.24 until the end of January 2019, it is clear that construction tech is big business.
Jobsite spoke with joint Global Chairman and Australian Managing Director of WT Partnership, Nick Deeks about what the robotic bricklayer could mean for the construction industry: “Hadrian X will undoubtedly cut the time down from two weeks to two days and will improve quality and consistency as well as safety,” said Deeks. “I think part of why they moved it to a top-secret location is that it is much closer to being a commercial reality, whereas up until now, it had only been a concept as such.”
FBR’s robotic bricklayer has also passed the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), confirming the technology is able to complete a structure within strict Australian building standards. The FAT was verified by an independent civil and structural engineering consultancy group.
“We now have the world’s only fully-automated, end-to-end bricklaying solution, with a massive market waiting for it,” said Mike Pivac, CEO of FBR when Hadrian first achieved its bricklaying feat. He also confirmed Hadrian X is the verge of being commercialised.
“We now begin the next exciting phase for the company, as we execute our global commercialisation strategy to capitalise on the significant demand for our technology,” he said.
“We now have the world’s only fully-automated, end-to-end bricklaying solution, with a massive market waiting for it”
Whilst the opportunity to automate and commercialise such an age-old trade as bricklaying is there, Nick Deeks also highlighted the changing nature of work in the construction industry. He believes that human roles won’t die, but they will merely be redefined.
“There are of course some downsides with sceptics talking about robotics, machine learning and AI, and how bad it is going to be because of the jobs that will be displaced, Deeks said. “They won’t be gone, of course. We will just need to recreate those roles, and estimates are that robots will displace up to 7.2 million jobs in the future.”