It will probably be some time before buildings are erected by robots. But a Boston startup called RCML has built a robot that’s designed to make sure that the humans who are still building them get it right.
From an article in the Boston Globe by Hiawatha Bray.
The robot is named called Oliver, a four-wheeled mobile robot prototype that uses a 3-D laser scanner to take superaccurate maps of the structure as it is going up. These maps will ensure every door, air vent, and light fixture is exactly where the architect wanted it. Such scanners have become routine on big construction jobs, but they’re set up by technicians who then stand around waiting for the scanning to to finish. Those folks have better things to do. Oliver doesn’t.
Oliver can also handle another dull task: spray-painting lines on the ground as it rolls along, to indicate the exact placement of walls, water pipes or wiring. With its autonomous guidance system, the robot can independently scan or tag a construction site without human assistance, perhaps at night when it’ll have the place to itself.
Startup RCML designed Oliver in partnership with Beverly-based Windover Construction. Both companies were assisted by Autodesk, which makes 3-D design software for the construction industry and runs a technology center in the Seaport District where architects and construction companies can learn and develop new building techniques.
At Autodesk, RCML chief executive Lana Graf encountered engineers from Windover working on new construction techniques. From them she learned of the need for a cheaper, more efficient way to run 3-D scans.
“They would not have found each other if they hadn’t both been here,” said Rick Rundell, who runs Autodesk’s technology centers.
These days, architects build virtual structures inside a computer long before construction workers break ground. Autodesk makes software that can simulate every detail of a building, down to the placement of light switches and sprinkler nozzles.
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