Automation, Robotics and Reproduction

Automation is defined as a self-regulating process performed by using programmable machines to carry out series of tasks. Automation is also a situation when the tooling (machine) completely takes over the tasks performed by the labourer. Although the tooling is taking over, the foreman is still around, and the engineer and the programmer are not far. A study about Swedish wood-frame panels assembled by automation indicates an economy up to 27% compared with traditional construction methods. Nonetheless, the old focus on using automation simply to increase productivity and reduce costs was seen to be short-sighted, because it is also necessary to provide a skilled workforce who can make repairs and manage the machinery. Moreover, the initial costs of automation were high and often could not be recovered by the time entirely new manufacturing processes replaced the old.

Robotics is a discipline overlapping artificial intelligence and mechanical engineering. Robotics comprises the ability of the same tooling which has the multi-axis flexibility to perform diversified tasks by itself.

Reproduction implies that the research and development of innovative processes are truly capable of simplifying the production process. Reproduction is innovation intensive: simplifying the production of complex goods by introducing a different technology, and therefore achieving more substantial economies than mechanizing, automating or robotising around the traditional construction methods. Reproduction is meeting directly the purpose of industrialisation where quantity justifies an investment to simplify production. The following are already in the market products produced using the concept of reproduction:

a) Hollow core slab: Extrusion of concrete along a line of pre-stressed  cables; rather than building (and  dismantling) formwork, installing the  reinforcing, delivering and pouring the concrete on the site; the cheapest way to produce a structural slab

b) Multifunctional lightweight precast panel: Casting or pressing or moulding a monolithic panel integrating thermal & acoustical insulation, air & vapor barrier, structural or bracing capacity, cladding and texture as well as the jointing geometry; then spraying a coating to achieve waterproofing; rather than putting up a stud wall with insulating blankets, air and vapor barrier membranes, exterior sheeting and cladding as well as interior finish. 

c) Toilet pod / modular toilet system: incorporating all the components (bath/washbasin/shower/even toilet bowl) and facilitating the maintenance (round corners and no tile joints) in composite, through deep-drawing, covering or even centrifugation; rather than laying & grouting tiles on a waterproof backing. Or producing the same shell in metal through electro-deposition

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