A project led by the UK arm of Swedish contractor Skanska has received $784,000 (£709,000) in UK government funding to develop the use of robots for construction.
Skanska is leading a consortium to create robotic construction units for use on a construction site or in temporary offsite facilities, which Skanska calls "flying factories", to carry out cutting, drilling and fixing.
Robotics in construction is an unknown field and provides great opportunities– Sam Stacey, Skanska’s Head of Innovation
Skanska said robotics could help make construction safer, greener, faster and more accurate.
"Robotics in construction is an unknown field and provides great opportunities. A robot to drill and fix to the underside of slabs, for example, would eliminate a lot of work at height in dusty, noisy environments," said Skanska’s Head of Innovation, Sam Stacey.
The award came from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Skanska’s partners in the project are ABB Robotics, the UK’s Building Research Establishment, software firm Tekla UK, lean consultants Exelin, and the University of Reading.
Stacey said the collaboration could bring to construction the benefits of automation now enjoyed by car-making.
Starting in the fourth quarter of this year, the project, called Flexible Robotic Assembly Modules for the Built Environment (FRAMBE), will scope out the opportunities for automation and develop robotic applications.
In February 2013, Skanska also secured a £750,000 government grant to trial its "flying factories" concept, which allows components of buildings to be assembled offsite in nearby barns or unused industrial space.
Photograph: A montage of industrial robots developed by ABB Robotics, a partner in the Skanksa project (ABB Robotics)