Robots Doing Good
Hard-Hat Robots: Building a New World in New Ways
3D printed homebuilding finally comes of age. What next?
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model
that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller
Robots as liberators?
While seemingly half the world is fretting over robots coming to steal jobs, what are the robots doing in the meantime?
Well, a bunch of them are getting ready to disrupt the homebuilding industry, which shouldn’t be too difficult to do, seeing that even after the advent of the nail gun and battery-powered saws, putting up homes is still pitifully slow and crazily expensive.
The result: Millions of hard-working, middle-class people, who would otherwise make terrific homeowners, have been shut out from owning one. They are forever held in bondage by archaic building technology that’s molasses slow and way overpriced. Wired: The Year in Housing: The Middle Class Can’t Afford to Live in Cities Anymore
For these huddled masses yearning to own, robots might well become liberators.
What a switch that would be: Robots as heroes. Only time will tell, but millions worldwide might one day be beholden to robots for building them an affordable residence. Maybe hanging on the walls in millions of future, “robot-built” homes—just above the His & Her La-Z-Boys—may be a cherished spot for a robot in needlepoint with Home Sweet Home across its chest.
Robots are getting ready to build homes for those who can’t afford a home and for those who can almost afford a home. In short, the countless millions who are today priced out of the global home-buying markets will, courtesy of robots, now have a decent shot at owning their own castle.
And just maybe, after the robots have got their homebuilding tech cranked up to ramming speed, governments will step in and use the same tech to build shelter for their homeless and hopelessly impoverished citizens. With a sixth of the world’s population (that’s a billion) now living in slums, and with millions more headed toward slum life by 2050, robots may become critical difference makers in human well-being and global, social tranquility.
The United Nations estimates that a 100 million people are homeless worldwide, and as many as 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing.
Robots are taking it into their own hands to do something about that situation.
Today’s construction industry is woefully inadequate at building homes fast enough to meet demand, and all are priced way above the abilities of the average worker to own. Part of the reason for sky-high housing costs is that when humans build homes or buildings the process is slow and wasteful.
Construction has the worst productivity record of any industry (25 percent), while its construction waste, the byproduct of all that lethargic assembly, is bound for landfills by the tens of thousands of dumpster loads. The U.S. alone accounts for over 500 million tons annually, which is increasing by 10 million tons each year, according to the EPA.
Little known is the fact that robots even have dumpster-diving in their skillset. The Finns have a very deft trash master: It’s a trash-sorting robot, the ZRR, from ZenRobotics that turns dumpster waste into recyclable profit. The ZRR is on the job in Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Japan.
Bottom line here is that construction robots work faster, are more productive, create far less waste, and their end product—decent housing—is affordable by those who otherwise would never have a shot at ownership.
An added benefit of these hard-hat construction robots is that when they finish building nice, comfy homes for hard-working humans, they clean up after themselves…at a profit!
3D printing homes makes sense.
Early tech leaders
The robot technology of choice with the best chance of filling the affordable housing need is 3D printing. There are a bunch of contenders for the crown of being the best at 3D printing houses, but only one clear leader has emerged. This hard-hat 3D champ can build a 400-square-foot home in 24-hours for $10,000.
Yes, a steal of a home for the low-low price of $10,000. And there’s virtually no waiting. Just pick out a piece of land and the mobile construction robot arrives. In 24-hours the house is built.
The company behind this homebuilding robot is called Apis Cor, which is certainly not a name that easily rolls off the tongue, but company name aside, their 3D printing robot lives up to its billing.
Founded by Russian engineer Nikita Chen-yun-tai, Apis Cor was the first company to develop a mobile construction 3D printer capable of printing whole buildings completely on site.
The Apis Cor 3D printing “tower crane” (portable to build site) has a printing zone of up to 630 square feet, can print sloping walls horizontally and vertically, produces no construction waste, and provides a cost savings of up to 70 percent over frame construction.
The first house printed using “mobile” 3D printing technology has been built (December 2016) in Stupino, south of Moscow.
“The house can be of any shape, including the familiar square shape, because the additive technology has no restrictions on design of new buildings, except for the laws of physics. It means it’s time to talk about the new fantastic potential of architectural solutions.” Apis-Cor website. Apis Cor video library.