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 Ascend

Autonomous wall and ceiling finishing work

Alexander Abele

Manuel Hess

 

In collaboration with

xxx

HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd

Germany

Bachelor thesis

2016

Construction site 4.0 

Ascend is a system designed for interior work on large construction sites. The automation and digital networking of puttying, sanding and brushing not only speeds up the work process but also reduces the worker’s physical burden.

Problem

The construction industry is facing major challenges to meet the need for affordable housing with an increasing population. In addition, the time and cost pressure, as well as the shortage of skilled workers, makes it difficult to realize many projects.

We asked us, why the construction site is years behind the industry 4.0? The model here is the modern industry, which years ago already took the step into robotics and automation. Here, the human should not be replaced but supported by dangerous and exhausting working steps. 

Process

To address these issues, new, innovative solutions need to support the construction processes. Our research goal was to review the current construction industry to find answers on why automatization and digitalization are still rare to find this sector. We interviewed experts, workers, and managers in this area. We also did an internship on a construction site in Stuttgart to find answers. 

 Result

During the design process, we identified the interior construction as the area with the best basis to create a visionary concept. Ascend is such a system, designed for interior work on large construction sites. Digital networking (BIM) will make it possible to automate the process of puttying, sanding and painting. It can not only speed up the work process but also reduces the worker’s physical strain. Construction, preparation, and rework will still be done by human hands. Dangerous and strenuous work on high ceilings and walls can be avoided.

Project focus

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Robotics

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UI & UX

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Industrial Design

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Branding

Let me explain you the story

01 | Result

Design Process 

Research outcome

The industry has perfect laboratory conditions for automation. In a closed space, many similar and repetitive steps can be programmed without changing conditions from the environment.

In the opposite of the construction site, each large construction will only be done once. Every time a new so-called prototype needs to be planned and realized. Any automation with robotics needs to be programmed and adapted for every single step. In addition, many different companies and contractors need to work together hand in hand and the weather condition is unforeseeable.

But the interior construction has the most similar conditions as the industry is facing. The changing weather condition does not have a huge effect on the work inside. Building information modeling is coming in the next years which makes it possible to use digital construction plans as a foundation to program automated working steps faster. 

 

— Ideation sketches

— System description

Consisting of a supply unit and up to two wall robots, this system uses sliding suction cups to work on walls and ceilings. There are various attachments available for the robot to do the filling, sanding, and painting work. The material is delivered in refillable cartridges and thus minimizes the otherwise unnecessarily high waste production of disposable containers today.

The system consists of two parts. The Base Unit includes the main functions, starting from the vacuum pump, spray pump, paint tank, emergency battery, cable reel, and the intelligent control unit. The surface unit needs to be as light as possible and includes only the driving motors, vacuum cups to hold it on the wall, sensors and the work modules on the back. Both units are connected with tubes for electricity and material supply.

The system will be operated by a tablet or computer. Digital construction plans can be downloaded and used to prepare any application of the Ascend System. First, the Surface Unit needs to be attached to the Base Unit. The paint adapter and paint tank should be prepared. Then the appropriate wall needs to be selected to calculate the driving route with the help of the digital construction plans online in the cloud. Afterward, the system can finish the wall automatically. 

— Complete usage scenario

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Construction site 4.0  Robotics