Construction Robotics, a startup based out of Victor, New York, has spent six years and about $900K in SBIR grant money on developing a robotic brick-laying system to work alongside human masons.
SAM (Semi-Autonomous Masonry System), assists on construction sites by lifting and placing bricks for masons who will operate and follow behind the system to tool joints and ensure overall wall quality.
Construction Robotics demonstrated their Alpha prototype on an actual building for Progressive Machine and Design, a company business partner. Masons were invited to interact and offer feedback on the machine for incorporation in the company’s next model. Construction Robotics wants to have three commercial systems working on real building sites in 2014.
Democrat & Chronicle–SAM has just started working on a new job as a mason, but it’s attracting lots of attention.
SAM, short for semi-automated mason, is a robot that can lay as many as 3,000 bricks a day, about five times as many as a man or woman, according to its inventors.
Construction Robotics, the Victor company that developed the machine, invited masons and contractors to watch SAM work on its first real-world project, a new building for Progressive Machine and Design at 727 Rowley Road in Victor.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be out here on a job site. We’ve been dreaming about this day for about six or seven years,” said Scott Peters, vice president and co-founder of Construction Robotics.
Over the past two weeks, SAM had about 75 visitors who learned how it operates and offered feedback for the creators.
“We needed to have the experience of working on a job site, but at the same time we needed to get feedback from them to see what they would need to have to have it on their job site,” said Zak Podkaminer, Construction Robotics’s IT and marketing manager.
Bricks are placed in a conveyor that feeds SAM and mortar is poured into a hopper. SAM picks up a brick with its arm, holds it while the proper amount of mortar is applied, then sets the brick in place with the help of a laser and software that follows a CAD design showing the exact location of each brick.
SAM is designed so that it can be operated by just one mason.
“It’s really not about speed right now. It’s more about learning, working with the masons and understanding how the relationship is and giving our guys a great scenario to learn from,” said Podkaminer.
Even after a brick is set, a mason must make sure the position is correct, and clean up the excess mortar that’s squeezed out.
“It’ll always need that assistance. There’s so much detail that goes into masonry walls that’s just something we’re not even looking to change,” said Podkaminer.
In addition to increased production and less fatigue for masons, SAM has the potential of attracting younger workers who might be intrigued by the technology aspect of working with a robotic partner, said Peters.
“It’s now a job that revolves around technology and that’s a great way to attract younger people into the trade,” said Peters.
Peters and partner Nathan Podkaminer started working on SAM in 2007.
“We’ve been at this full-time for two years. We’ve really only had the full team in place for probably about the last 10 months. Our goal for commercialization is we’ll have an early commercial system out there mid-next year,” Peters said.