In Brief
Swiss architects and engineers have designed an autonomous mobile construction robot that can adapt to changes in its environment and make late adjustments to design plans.
The In-situ Fabricator

The In-situ Fabricator is an autonomous construction robot capable of laying bricks into pre-programmed structures. Unlike most industry robots that are stationary and simply follow unchanging commands, the IF can actually move around and adapt to changing situations. The IF has sensors, onboard computing, and a 2D laser range finder that operates together with computer algorithms that allow it to build a 3D site map. Two on-board computers, one for the arm and one for the overall robot, interpret data for location self-awareness and movement, allowing the robot to be independently mobile on site. It can even adapt to unplanned situations, such as late design changes.

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Robotics for Construction

The IF was designed at the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication where researchers are cooking up other things for the IF. The engineers are making programs that would allow material assemblies with unpredictable geometry, like measuring rubble in order to determine how it can be fit together to create a standing structure. There’s also the Project “Mesh Mould,” which intends to combine two of the most labor and cost intensive aspects of concrete construction (the formwork and the reinforcement) into one single robotically fabricated construction system. In the short term, the researchers at the NCCR imagine that mobile robots will be collaborating with their human counterparts in order to get the best of both worlds.