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European researchers have developed a cable-driven robot called Hephaestus that aims to automate the on-site execution or installation process in the construction industry. The whole system operates through eight flexible cables to build, repair, and maintain building façades.
The robot focuses on bringing simplified solutions to façade construction and the associated works required to be carried out when this element of a building is built or needs maintenance.
With this project, it is intended to discover a new automatized way to install facades providing a unique solution, which is not only highly industrialized in production but also in maintenance and installation. The robot is believed to strengthen and empower the construction sector in Europe and all over the world, positioning the European Robotic Industry as a leader in the growing market for robotics.
The system is able to accomplish multiple tasks on inclined or vertical planes of the built and outdoor environment. Hephaestus incorporates several technologies that are already developed into a multiple job performer. Apart from the robot design, there is a modular end-effector kit appended to the set-up.
This modular end-effector kit can hold various tools for the bracket installation and of a cable-driven robot for the units positioning. On one side, it serves to accomplish the primary task, which can be different at each time where Hephaestus is applied. On the other, it carries all the accessory devices that are necessary for sensing and controlling the system.
In addition to this, the robot can undertake several tasks within the built environment like scanning of the building to obtain precise plans of its final state and integration with the BIM model of the building, painting, installation of prefabricated panels, cleaning a curtain wall in a high-rise, replacing damaged elements, maintenance of possible solar cells, repair of cracks, etc.
The main challenge to make the system work is to get the cable tension right. Once the tension is determined, the design of the installation is a cakewalk. The cost of the system depends on the tension. The more the tension required by the cables, the more expensive the whole installation becomes.
The system increases efficiency and executes tasks with fine precision. On top of that, it will minimize the safety concerns at the site as the risk of working at height is reduced. The researchers say that the technology could be ready for commercial use on construction sites in five to ten years.