JCB aids robotic building project

By Mike Hayes11 February 2021

OEM’s Hydradig excavator being used to test advanced techniques for offsite construction

JCB’s Hydradig excavator in a test area at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, UK

A JCB excavator is being used on an €82 million project to test advanced digital techniques for offsite construction.

The Hydradig machine has been installed at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, UK, where researchers are digitally mapping and analysing the movements it makes in assembling and installing manufactured components, as part of a project called Big Yellow Robots.

The  aim of the UK Government-backed project is to explore the potential for increasing the efficiency of offsite construction – a fast-growing sector, which promises cost and time savings, as well as increased sustainability.

The hydradig is equipped with a two-piece TAB main boom and a tiltrotator. As it undertakes a range of lifting, placing movements (even writing on a whiteboard with a pen), sensing technology attached to the excavator and an array of cameras, plot its ever movement.

One aim of the project is to develop technology that allows the automation of more of the offsite prefabrication work undertaken by heavy machinery.

If repetitive tasks, or those requiring extreme accuracy can be automated, the team believes non-skilled operators will be able to undertake tasks currently requiring highly-skilled and experienced operators.

Mark Ireland, chief engineer of technology strategy at the MTC, said, “As part of the Construction Innovation Hub’s transformative programme, we are looking at a range of technologies to help the assembly of offsite components. That could be through robotising construction equipment, or ensuring robots can work in a construction environment. Our ultimate goal is to apply kinematic modelling to construction machinery.”

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