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Company Awarded £700K to Develop Construction Robots

Project development and construction company Skanska has won a funding award to help develop robots capable of onsite and off-site construction tasks.

The futuristic sounding plan is going ahead thanks to an award from a partnership between Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The two organisations are collaborating on a Research & Development project in the area of robotics in construction.

Now after being selected for the award Skanska will explore the use of robotic construction units that can be applied on construction sites or in factories where they can carry out useful work such as drilling and fixing parts of building structures in so called 'flying factories'. The idea behind a flying factory is to build structures off site that can speed up the assembly of a building on site. The benefits of using robotic units in flying factories include controlled conditions, safety, accuracy and removing possible delays and side effects from adverse weather.

The project which will start towards the end of 2015 will allow Skanska to explore the future possibilities of construction alongside a research consortium. Partners on the project include ABB Robotics, Tekla UK – a software company, The University of Reading, The Building Research Establishment and Lean Consultants Exelin.

The total grant for the project is for £709,000 and Skanska are delighted to have been awarded the project.

Skanska’s Head of Innovation, Sam Stacey said that robotics in construction is currently uncharted territory but could provide great opportunities. Stacey went on to add the example of an undesirable task such as drilling and fixing the underside of slabs, where robots could eliminate he need for working at height in a dusty and noisy environment.

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Stacey also believes that brining together intelligence from a wide range of specialists from separate industries can pay dividends. She said: “This approach, of collaboration with experts from a range of industries, is bringing to construction the levels of quality and cost reduction experienced by sectors such as the automotive industry. Our relationship with ABB has been established through the 3D concrete printing project and, in Sweden, with robot solutions for civil works; Exelin is a partner on flying factories.”

The project which will be known as Flexible Robotic Assembly Modules for the Built Environment (FRAMBE) will be run by the UK arm of the now global Skanska company.

The company which started in a small Swedish fishing village over 125 years ago, established itself as a global firm during the 1990s when it began developing residential and commercial property in South American and European countries.

Skanska previously secured £750,000 of government funding to trial their flying factory concept in 2013, where sections of buildings were assembled in vacant industrial space. This previous experience and commitment to experimenting with robotic technology may have influenced the decision of Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to work alongside Skanska on the FRAMBE project.

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