FieldPrinter autonomous robot automates jobsite layout
By Becky Schultz09 August 2022
“Construction is rampant with manual workflows – processes where a phone call, or an email, must be sent in order to move the project forward – or work that must be done precisely via manual labor,” said Tessa Lau, founder and CEO of Dusty. “With so little automation in the industry, it’s no wonder that 85% of projects finish over budget, contributing directly to the housing crisis.”
This is where robotics technology, such as Dusty Robotics’ FieldPrinter autonomous solution, can help. “Our robot-powered solutions automate construction’s manual workflows,” Lau stated, “increasing productivity across the industry, while also creating better working conditions for skilled craftspeople.”
Digital models printed on jobsite surface
The FieldPrinter automates one of the most common sources of conflict on construction projects: incorrect hand-drawn layouts using a chalk line. By automating this process, it ensures all trades build from the same set of plans, eliminating errors, expediting conflict resolution and reducing the cost and duration of construction, said Dusty Robotics.
FieldPrinter utilizes existing building information modeling (BIM) designs to print digital building models directly onto the floor of a jobsite, instructing crews exactly what to build and where. The system requires a control point file, which signifies where in 2D space the system is operating. From there, model information is added that can be printed on the floor in either DWG or CSV format. Any combination of points, text and lines are printed directly from a CAD file and linework styles can be customized to display layer information, such as wall types or plumbing types, the company noted.
The layout can be completed on any flat surface, including concrete, plywood subfloor, wood formwork and asphalt. According to Dusty Robotics, floor plans can be laid out up to 10 times faster than traditional manual crews with an accuracy up to 1/16 of an inch.
The FieldPrinter comes in a customized hard case housing all necessary components. The rest of the system includes a tripod and total station and a ruggedized tablet. Using the tablet interface, the operator has full control over the layout. Once the job is completed, the report generator provides the user with a digital report of the completed work and productivity rates.
Recent advances to the technology are designed to ease adoption, including:
- The ability to print around reshores or on congested sites using automatic obstacle detection and avoidance.
- QR code printing to enable instant access to construction documents.
- Fast, efficient printing including single-pass printing of intersection points.
- Real-time progress monitoring.
25 million sq. ft. and counting
The technology is catching on rapidly. Within the first quarter of 2022, the FieldPrinter had already laid out more than 25 million sq. ft. on the floors of buildings of U.S. jobsites, Dusty Robotics reported. Several dozen contractors are currently using it, including DPR, Swinerton, PARIC, Performance Contracting Inc. and Southland Industries.
“We invested heavily in BIM for our projects, and Dusty ensures that all trades are building off coordinated models on a project,” said Henning Roedel, robotics lead, DPR Construction. “We’ve used Dusty’s solution on 16 projects across the U.S., allowing our foremen to focus on being the best craftsmen instead of doing the time-consuming manual labor of layout. We’re scaling these printers to be available on our jobsites nationwide.”
“For us, the main ingredients are Dusty’s accuracy and layout speed,” said Emmy Guthrie, preconstruction manager at Performance Contracting, Inc. “We’re also excited about Dusty printing layout for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing trades to enable better coordination. Thanks to Dusty, we can start installing our work right away without worrying about conflicts.”
Dusty Robotics plans to expand its reach even further. In May 2022, it announced it had closed a $45 million Series B round that will enable the company to grow its team, expand its product offerings and accelerate manufacturing with the goal of deploying its products on construction sites all across the U.S.
“The construction industry is in the midst of a digital transformation. Most projects have adopted BIM to design buildings in full 3D, yet layout crews still use paper plans, measuring tape and string to transfer those designs to the site for construction,” said Lau. “We are creating a future where robots are standard tools used to construct every building, turning BIM into reality and eliminating the errors that create waste.”