Generally, there is high potential to apply robotic processes in the construction industry. The productivity of construction work is alarmingly low compared to other manufacturing industries. In particular, onsite work is still completely dependent on manual labour.
Robotic systems, combined with intelligent control software, offer the dexterity and flexibility needed for construction work and can thus be a feasible solution to increase productivity. They combine the benefits of automation, such as a constant controlled quality with an effect on durability and sustainability and an overall facilitation of building production, with the adaptability and flexibility needed for construction work.
The specific situation in Singapore and its construction industry seems particularly suited for the application of robotic solutions for construction work, and can act as a catalyst for future application. While the targeted high population growth over the next decades demands a high degree of unbroken building activity, the country suffers from the lack of skilled workers. Additionally, the high-rise typology with repetitive floor plans makes automation feasible.
Tiling work, in particular, is suited for robotic automation. It is a well-defined subdomain of construction with clear interfaces that can easily be singled out. Further, it is a repetitive task and features no complex joinery. Moreover, tiling is the predominant surface treatment in Singapore. Therefore, automating this process is expected to benefit the construction industry as a whole.
The aim of the project is to realise a demonstrator for an automated tiling process. The demonstrator will act as proof of concept for the feasibility of applying a mobile robotic system for planning and executing onsite tiling work. An essential benchmark for the demonstrator project is its ability to compete against manually executed work in regards to quality, time, and costs. The result will be evaluated against current construction work in Singapore.
Besides developing a robotic system that is able to apply adhesive and lay tiles in the same or better quality than a human worker, the project has to develop perception and localisation strategies for the robot to orient itself in a semi-known environment and to precisely position the individual tiles. Further strategies for integrating digital planning data like shop drawings into the robotic construction process will be developed, such that they can act as the initial input for the robot control data.