Construction News

Mon September 20 2021

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Autodesk unveils robot-filled shipping container

9 Nov 18 Autodesk is unveiling a robot-filled shipping container that it says can bring manufacturing technology to the construction site.

It is being demonstrated next week at Autodesk University Las Vegas to show how the company has been working with the construction industry to explore what can be gained by adopting manufacturing principles and practices.

Autodesk has created a large-scale additive manufacturing ‘toolbox’ that puts two Panasonic TS-950 robots in a shipping container that can be deployed on a construction site. The Valk Welding group from The Netherlands supplied the robots for directed energy deposition (DED), a form of additive manufacturing to produce strong metal components.

“Construction and manufacturing professionals are seeking better, more efficient ways to design and build the world around us, and there is much to be gained by approaching construction with a manufacturing mindset,” said Autodesk. “With the world population expected to hit 10 billion in just over thirty years, mounting effects of climate change, dwindling natural resources, and an already challenging skilled-labor shortage, it seems nearly impossible to address the need to build a global average of 13,000 buildings every day through the year 2050. The current way of doing things simply won’t get us there.”

It added: “For the construction industry, imagine what you could do with the ability to make large parts out of steel or other metals right on the spot. What could you do with this technology if it could be available anywhere in the world – even right there on a construction site? We asked this question of our customers, then we went to work making it a reality.”

Dutch construction businesses Dura Vermeer responded with ideas about how it could use on-demand manufacturing technologies to support its work and address three challenges. One of these is to produce tailored components for tolerance-sensitive connections.

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One of the challenges Dura Vermeer faces is using off-the-shelf components for connecting a glass curtain wall to the steel structure of a building. The glass panes need to be positioned very accurately to avoid shattering. Using the new technology, Dura Vermeer could see itself creating a customised ‘steel spider’ connector that could result in perfectly fitting components with optimized weight, that are easy to install and have high architectural quality.

Dura Vermeer’s second idea is to use the approach to combine 10 separate components into a single component that could simplify their supply chain, minimize the labour needed for installation, and result in components with a higher architectural quality.

It also sees a role in redesign of complex structural connections into “beautiful, holistic nodes”. Oftentimes architects and engineers design complex structures that Dura Vermeer needs to cut into parts to be produced by their supply chain, then reassemble them on site. With an additive manufacturing approach at the ready, Dura Vermeer imagines they could solve for such complexity and produce more things on site, such as the connections of a modular dome structure, to become an attractive piece of art inside a building.

“Innovating with new technology and embracing industry-leading solutions for construction challenges allows us to bring more value to our customers,” said Dura Vermeer board member onald Dielwart.

Autodesk will showcasing some of Dura Vermeer’s early prototypes, as well as the additive construction shipping container itself. After that, the plan is to take it on the road in Europe to see how other construction customers might use the technology.

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