Air balancers remove the effect of gravity on loads and enable them to be steered with ease. They are often seen in industrial applications, especially on automotive assembly lines, where they enable loads to be precisely positioned by hand, repetitively. Unlike a chain hoist, which just lifts loads up and down, a pneumatic air balancer allows loads to be moved by hand through all axes, in any direction.
They are not new technology. However, they are not often seen on construction sites.
Sisk’s device is a Material Unit Lift Enhancer (or MULE), which is an air balancer developed by New York-based Construction Robotics specifically for construction applications. It takes the strain from lifting loads up to 60kg.
It is not a robot; it does not replace any construction workers; it just helps them do their job.
Approximately 120 MULEs have been sold in North America since the product launch last year but Sisk’s is the first in Europe.
Sisk is using its MULE to lift blocks in the construction of the multi-storey car park at Wembley Park. The car park will form the base of a new build-to-rent residential development next to Wembley Stadium.
Sisk worked with block supplier Tarmac and Construction Robotics to develop an aggregate block, 890mm long, which is twice as large as a standard 100mm thick concrete block. The new larger block can be steered into place with the MULE.
Sisk says that it intends to roll the MULE out across its other construction projects in the UK and Ireland in the coming months.
Sisk chief executive Steve Bowcott said: “I am delighted to announce that Sisk now has a fully operational Material Unit Lift Enhancer at our Wembley Park site. At Sisk, we are always looking at new, innovative ways to enhance productivity and make conditions safer for our workforce. This development further demonstrates that Sisk is leading the way in terms of the introduction of innovative construction solutions to construction projects and we look forward to utilising this tool across our other sites in Ireland and the UK very soon.”
Scott Peters, president and co-founder of Construction-Robotics, said: “Construction Robotics is excited to be working with John Sisk & Son to bring the MULE technology to the UK to benefit the health of the worker and to add to the construction markets through new methods to improve productivity for installing block materials. Sisk’s leadership to search out and their investment to adapt innovative technologies has led to a 12-month partnership to get the first Construction Robotics MULE technology outside of North America for application on the Wembley Park E05 project. Their team of experts worked with our engineers to develop a new larger block format and a custom MULE gripper to take advantage of the MULE lifting capacity. This system can be used across many types of construction in the UK. We are excited to be a part of the Sisk team and see great opportunities to advance construction with technology.”
Andrew Campling, product line director at Tarmac Building Products, added: “There are significant opportunities to continue improving the performance of the construction industry through the development of new technologies and innovations and we’re delighted to be part of this pioneering collaborative trial. Alongside the opportunity to increase efficiency rates and remove the amount of manual handling required, there are important safety as well as wellbeing benefits to having heavy lifting carried out by this robotic tool.”