Proposal for Robotic Building Construction Technology Development
Revcad Ltd propose a business partnership, initially for the completion and commercialization of our tube steel building design, manufacturing, and automated robotic construction software, and then to develop the associated robotic hardware technology and use the robots for commercial tubular steel (and other) building projects in cities around the world.
To reiterate this – we propose to complete our proof-of-concept software for the automated building of tubular steel structures using robots, and from there to carry the project through to the real world by actually developing the robots, through to constructing buildings using these robots as commercial building projects.
We believe the commercial value for the robotic building will be immense. See Appendix 5 for some of the speculative applications of this technology.
We believe Revcad are uniquely placed in the world to achieve this due to the design software technology and expertise we have established over many years, along with our expertise in other fields of software engineering (particularly mechanisms – e.g. virtual engines and gearboxes). In a sense we consider this project to be the natural ultimate realization of our software products and experience.
Revcad will require investment to complete the software and hardware development project, and bring together the other global partners required for its commercialization. We are therefore seeking to form an exclusive partnership in this project for our mutual benefit.
In terms of the social impact of this project, this technology will create a whole raft of new building design possibilities that will become realistically achievable through this technology. As such we see this technology enhancing our world in unprecedented ways and we are therefore keen to see it realized. In fact we anticipate the technology will become a new global phenomenon. In this respect we believe the project could become the ultimate boost for the companies involved in the project, and that not only will those involved be proud to have been part of it, but it will also significantly raise their global profile.
We are therefore delighted to extend a hand to suitable partners in the hope of partnership. As has so often been proved in the modern era, technology has the power to significantly change the world. Despite our apparent relative small size and significance in the world at the moment, we believe we have some very unique and key skills in computer programming and engineering to make a powerful global impact. For this we need a global partner. We are hopeful that you will recognize our unique assets and skill-set as a partner in this business enterprise, and therefore, we invite you to give this proposal your full attention. We believe if you embrace it then it could prove to be hugely profitable, and something of an adventure in new engineering technology in the world.
The following videos show some of the key technology developed or under development:
This video shows a proof-of-concept construction robot with all the members and joints necessary for the purpose. Please note that the members are only a representation of the kind of configuration of robot that will be needed and not the final thing. The video shows a sample of the kind of motion of the welding rigs required for placing and welding tubular steel members.
This video shows a demonstration of the robot carrying a tube steel member and climbing over a structure to correctly place it, and then weld it into position. The robot walks over the structure to the required position. It then squats down and places the tube in position using the tube gripper arms. The welding outrigs then engage and go through the motion to weld the tube into position.
Revcad propose the formation of a business partnership that includes a number of other essential partners required for the commercialization of the technology. These partners will enable the completion of the software development, the development of associated robotics hardware, and finally the construction companies that will use both the software and hardware to accomplish the actual builds. There may also be scope for steel companies that want to become investors in the project in return for rights to supply materials to the building projects once the technology is developed.
Revcad have developed a new and unique software solution to the point of proof-of-concept for the automated construction of tube steel buildings. The software provides means to design buildings, design virtual robots to construct the buildings, to generate a build solution for particular buildings, and software to drive the robots to perform the construction of these building. The software has already been developed to the proof-of-concept stage where much of the process can be visually demonstrated using computer simulation, so the methodologies can be easily appreciated.
The project will require the collaboration of the following contributors/partners to bring it to the point of commercialization:
- Software Developers (Revcad) – to complete the development of the software to generate a robotic build solution for selected building designs, and to enable the parametric generation of the initial custom building design objectives. Ongoing development beyond the initial project will become part of this company’s activities to apply the software to further building designs in collaboration with the other partners.
- Robot Manufacturer – A major robot manufacturer to design and build the robots and machines required to implement both the manufacture of tube steel components, and the construction of the buildings. These robots will be designed to range freely over a structure, be able to carry payloads, and carry the rigs and tools (e.g. payload handling rigs, welding rigs) necessary to perform their construction work.
- Building Designers – to provide overall project management, to obtain building contacts from cities and governments, and to guide, validate and certify the building designs both as a completed entity, and at every stage of the construction process. This company is expected to be an experienced and major global concern for building design.
- Construction Company – A construction company to prepare the building sites and manage the robotic building construction using the software provided by Revcad, and robots developed for the purpose by the robot manufacturer. This company will be responsible for setting foundations, setting up the docking stations and manufacturing stations, managing the flow of materials, and then managing the robots while the construction is in progress.
- Steel Company (Optional) – Collaboration and possible investment from a major steel company who will ultimately receive rights to supply the tube steel building materials for the commercial builds using this technology.
We suggest this will be a major technological step forward in the construction industry that will open up many new possibilities for construction, including huge and iconic buildings that will generate a keen interest from all forward looking cities of the world that are interested in enhancing their skyline and facilities with new iconic building designs, and have a desire to exhibit and demonstrate new and marvelous technology, thereby enhancing their technological prowess in the world.
The commercial value of this new technology is expected to be huge because the scale of projects is only limited by the strength limits of materials, and the designs are easily repeatable on different scales, so the same building, or variations of it, can be reproduced in many locations around the world. Also the process of building using robots will be rapid, continuous, and therefore relatively inexpensive once the technology has been tested and allowed to mature.
Revcad have already created selected virtual parametric building designs that are very elegant, iconic and have practical purpose, and we expect these designs to attract significant interest from many cities around the world. The parametric development means these designs can be easily resized and adjusted using simple dimension input and options for application in different settings according to different requirements.
Once the technology is mature Revcad will be expanded to develop software for a wide range of new building design projects for robotic construction, in collaboration with the building design partner company, based on this technology as it emerges and is practically proven. We also expect Revcad to continue to develop the software to fully exploit the versatility of the robots in many ways beyond the initial projects.
The following outlines the key features of the new technology that are expected to have significant commercial potential.
New Building Concepts
Building projects become possible using this technology that would otherwise be extremely difficult, or even impossible using existing methods. Buildings can be huge and can be accomplished without the need for cranes – though the robots can optionally be made to work automatically with cranes if required. The design software for the building is parametric, meaning the buildings can be recreated easily with different sizes and options, and the robots that build them can be suitably sized for every case. This unleashes the technology to handle any feasible size of building simply by using suitably sized robots to accomplish it.
Difficulty and Cost
These building projects can be accomplished far more easily and at much lower cost than any conventional method using robots because the robots work quickly, precisely, and continuously, and it removes most of the health and safety demands of construction where a human presence is required.
As part of a building project the robots are able to assemble their own tubular steel scaffold, and then strip it back down on completion of the project. This scaffolding can be extensive if necessary without causing a huge impact on the scale or cost of the project. This ability greatly expands the range of design possibilities with this technology, and makes many designs possible that could not be realistically accomplished by conventional methods.
Build Order, Accuracy and Control
The potential for mistakes is minimized because a build solution includes every detailed movement of the robots and materials to complete the whole project, even down to the fine detail, and it eliminates the scope for deviation that is always present with human involvement.
Tourism & City Profile Enhancement: Construction
The actual process of building using robots can become a technological tourist attraction for the city for the duration of the project. Not only can the overall construction be observed from prepared vantage points, but also the details of construction can be displayed using video cameras mounted on the robots, and drones that automatically follow tracking devices attached to the robots, transmitting to local screens, or over the internet. This will give the city a high technological profile and provide an entirely new and fascinating tourist attraction. As the project will be so ground-breaking and the result iconic and stunning in terms of its modern architecture, we expect all of this video footage to be used to compile documentaries about the project which will be another source of revenue, and another means to raise the profile of the companies involved, and that of the cities where the projects take place.
Tourism & City Public Attraction: Permanent Attraction
Once a building is complete the robots can continue to navigate the structure as a public attraction. This too has commercial potential as an ongoing attraction to the city because the robots can be used in novel ways – such as for choreographed coordinated movement (e.g. March, Dance etc. – Maybe carrying and raising a national flag on the summit of a building daily), or even potentially for rides to the general public if the health and safety concerns are suitably addressed. The robots can also be used for building maintenance (e.g. washing, painting etc.). The building therefore effectively becomes a climbing frame for the robots which mean there are many creative possibilities.
Buildings can be created as facilities, and not just for iconic purposes. For example they may be created to contain or suspend shopping areas, or café and restaurant facilities. Or they may provide a covered area for such things as concerts, or sports.
Canopy – Building Design Idea
One of the initial tubular steel building designs Revcad are working on to pioneer the project is called the ‘Canopy’ or ‘River Canopy’.
This building has a spherical cap shape with arches through it so it looks a bit like the base of the Eiffel tower, but is perfectly spherical in its surface shape. It is called a river canopy because it is designed to span a river.
The canopy design is extremely elegant which will have an appeal to a city in itself as a piece of artwork that will enhance the city and its skyline.
This design can be just iconic, or it can provide a means of crossing the river, or housing cafes and shops, or provide a boarding station for river boats – there are many possibilities. Alternatively the same canopy can be placed in a park, rather than over a river, and with the addition of a roofing layer, also assembled by special robots, it can become a huge open-air covered area for many purposes – such as concerts or sporting events, as mentioned before – an ideal facility for a rainy country.
There is also huge potential with such a design to develop robots that can automatically setup the building ground structure for different events. This is a kind of radical extension to the kind of adaptability now seen in structures such as Wimbledon Centre Court, and various stadiums around the world, with their automated roof opening/closing. We anticipate trucks shipping in materials and robots unloading and assembling the structure beneath the canopy, perhaps for some kind of huge show. Then on completion the robots will strip it back down and reload the trucks.
As already mentioned the structure can also serve as a climbing frame for robots to produce choreographed displays, give rides, or perform other functions. For example a robot may lift a pod of people and transfer the pod to a café entrance slung within the structure as a kind of elaborate and specialised lift, giving them an exhilarating ride along the way, which we anticipate will be a real attraction to the public.
For further information on the Canopy design see the appendices.
Elevated Sports Stadium – Building Design Idea
This building design idea is an extension of the canopy design idea. Its purpose is to raise a sports stadium high above a city with minimum ground signature. Typically a stadium occupies a large area that has to be built in a convenient place where enough space can be allocated for it. This idea raises the sports ground above the city so those that access it simply use lifts or stairs to reach it, and it can be conveniently set in the center of a city. The space beneath can therefore be fully utilized, perhaps as a shopping center, or special park of some kind, or other sports facility. There is also a possibility of building a canopy above the raised stadium to give protection from the weather.
Software Technology Capability
This reiterates and expands the capability of the software technology under development.
Parametric Building Design – Buildings can be designed as simple static structures and a robotic build solution found for such structure. However for most buildings Revcad will create them in collaboration with the Building Design Company to be generated from parameters. This means the buildings can be resized or altered using options for different size and applications.
Robot Building – Robots will build the buildings by cutting the tubes in the tube cutting stations, then loading them onto the build robots that transport them over the structure, locate the tube, and weld them into position.
The software will generate a complete build solution for any building. This defines every minute movement of the robots to perform the building process. It includes the cutting of the tube all the way to location of the tube, welding it into position, and returning to the docking station for the next tube.
A robot will be able to navigate over the tube structure by anchoring itself to the structure using claws and treating it as a climbing frame. The movement is like a climber on a mountain – moving one hold at a time and always maintaining the stability of a least three triangular holds on the tubular frame. The route for the robot to carry each tube is worked out down to fine detail by the software, so therefore every minute movement of the robot will be defined for the whole build.
There will be no need for complex visions systems because the exact geometry of the environment will be known. Neither will it be necessary for the robots to have balance, as in free ranging humanoid robots, because the robots are always clamped to the structure they are navigating. Therefore these machines are much simpler to create than robots that are free ranging in a random environment.
The Robots will possibly be powered by electric car batteries, or something like that, allowing them to range free and return frequently to a recharging station to keep them powered, often with two robots working in tandem while the other recharges. Alternatively fuel cell engines may be appropriate for quick refuelling to prevent recharging downtime.
Vision systems, touch sensors and distance senses may be added to enable the robots to validate their environment, but these are support and safety systems, not the core building system. There will also be the need for robot recovery of robots for times where there is a breakdown, and the robots must be designed with this in mind.
Development of robotic software for the design of specialised robots for the purpose of automated construction:
- Development of software to drive the robots for the automated construction of buildings created with the building design software – the software will generate a complete build solution.
- Design of specific buildings using the building design software as the initial project/s to which this technology is to be applied. Our expectation is that Revcad will be expanded to engage in a wide range of new building design projects as the technology emerges, and these designs will generally be parameterized so they can be sized and altered easily for different cases.
- Development of the robotic machinery hardware for building construction (requires partnership and investment).
Robot technology is probably the most revolutionary emerging technology in our day, and it looks set for rapid development and expansion, with huge commercial value. It has already been applied to many fields of manufacture, but in this project we are now proposing unleashing them from their static moorings to give them much wider potential that is applicable to buildings, yet in a perfectly controlled environment.
The most vital and key part of this technology is the software behind it that drives robotic hardware. Advancement in software is therefore key to pushing these technologies forward into more and more productive purposes, and in this there are many exciting opportunities for technological advancement.
Robots have not yet been applied to building construction on a major scale, though the prospect for doing so is by no means a new concept. The main limitation has been the need for intelligent software, which is something we are now addressing in this project.
Revcad are already the developers and owners of software that has long since been applied to complex 3D sheet metal design, and which has naturally developed on into tubular steel construction design, though no product has yet been released by us that is specifically developed for tubular steel construction, even though the sheet metal design system has been frequently put to use for this purpose.
For some time we (Revcad) have been working on the development of this tubular steel construction software and are able to create complex tubular steel buildings, and generate the manufacturing data to produce the tube steel components to construct them.
We have so far declined to release our tube steel building construction software technology because we see greater potential in retaining the software for our own use, and that of our partners, as a cutting edge technology that has greater potential to generate revenue by applying it than it has by simply selling software licenses.
Our robotic software can be applied to any static tubular steel building design, but part of the purpose of the software is the parametric design of specialised tubular steel buildings, so the building is generated through mathematics and algorithms in a range of sizes with any number of design options. This technology requires programming work for its application to each new building, but the generic software foundations and methodologies that underpin and enable such parametric design have been created by Revcad and are available for application to any new building projects we choose to engage in.
We have already applied our building design technology to produce various buildings that are intended to become the pioneer projects for robotic construction. These designs are iconic, unusual, and potentially monumental, and could be of significant interest to cities around the world as a means to enhance their city’s architecture and facilities. Only a few details of these proposed projects are included here but they will be discussed in detail with potential partners and investors in the project. In most cases the scale and difficulty of the task to construct these buildings by conventional means would probably mean they are not viable projects other than by the robotic solution.
In our software development we have so far reached the point of:
- Laying down the software technology for parametric building design development.
- Applying the parametric building design software to some iconic buildings that should prompt an interest from many cities around the world. These buildings are also functional so they have very useful and practical purpose, which should help to attract interest from around the world.
- Developing methodologies have been devised for these buildings, but those details are not fully disclosed here, and are awaiting discussions and validation from the building design partner.
- Developing the virtual robot design software to allow us to design any configuration of robot with all the necessary limbs, joints and degrees of freedom. We are therefore able to create virtual robotic machines that are highly specialized for specific purposes.
- Designs have been created for some of the specific virtual robots for building construction using our software. These are the most obvious logical solutions for constructing the buildings we have designed.
- We have partially developed the software to drive the robots, and to generate a complete build solution for the proposed building projects. This is ongoing work that comprises part of the proposed project. We have so far taken it to proof of concept stage ready for obtaining investment for completion.
The robotic construction project is now approaching the point at which we can begin developing the robotic hardware, and then applying the hardware to test, prove, and refine it so it can be applied to the building projects we have proposed in a city that embraces the project (or some variation of it).
The robotic hardware development will require considerable investment and the involvement of robotics design experts. It is therefore anticipated that a partnership will be formed with at least one, and maybe multiple major global robotics companies to make this possible. We anticipate this partner (or these partners) to be attracted to the project once the core partnership of Revcad and the steel company investor is established.
While the robot development is taking place we anticipate we (Revcad) will complete our software as described ready for the testing phases. Investment will be required for Revcad to expand the company so that this completion can be done quickly and efficiently, and the necessary expertise is developed and understood by enough people in the company so it is not dependent on any individual.
The commercial potential for this project is huge for a number of reasons:
- The size and types of building construction possible using these methods would in many cases be almost impossible by human hands.
- The size of buildings that can be constructed is limited only by materials because robots can be created of any appropriate size for any project.
- The use of robots immediately resolves most of the health and safety issues surrounding conventional construction by removing a human presence from the construction site.
- The construction of such buildings will be far cheaper than possible using human methods because it is highly ordered and continuous, standardising the construction process and reducing the potential for delays to a minimum.
- Construction timescales will be minimised.
- The robots are reusable as plant for further projects.
- The projects are repeatable, or variations of the project are easily accomplished using the parametric design of buildings, and the ability of the software to generate a complete robotic build solution for any variation.
- Robots are able to construct their own scaffolding where necessary, and are able to strip it down again as required. This makes many constructions possible that would not realistically be possible without it.
- If required robots can maintain buildings once they are constructed in this way because they can navigate the structure in the same way they do during its construction.
- Once a building is constructed robots can be used to navigate it in novel ways, perhaps as an attraction, or for other purposes – such as rides, displays of technology, or choreography. All of this enhances their value as a city attraction.
The software required for this whole project has already developed to a stage where it can be demonstrated for proof of concept, and we have now reached a point where discussions with potential partners and investors in the project can begin. We are therefore seeking the attention of an appropriate major global company to form the proposed core partnership with Revcad.
Work to Achieve Commercialization
One level of commercialization of this technology can begin almost immediately within a partnership by using the existing tube steel design software to generate manufacturing data for tube steel buildings for manual construction. This can be done in advance of the creation of robots, although the process of building using conventional methods will be more complex than the eventual use of robots. With minor completions the Canopy is one such candidate building, but there is also a facility to import layouts from other CAD format files defining all the members, and then generate the tube manufacturing data. To check the integrity of the structures we design it may be necessary to create an interface to commercially accepted analysis software, so forming this interface will become a priority task. Immediate commercialization then becomes possible while the robotic construction project progresses.
To bring the robotic construction project to the point of commercialization work is required from all partners in the project. The following roughly outlines the anticipated responsibilities and work demand for each partner.
Software Developers (Revcad)
The software development has reached the proof of concept stage but it must continue to develop until a complete build solution is possible for the building/s we wish to commence with. However the technology is developing rapidly and Revcad consider the major ground-breaking technological problems in terms of software development to be already solved.
The additional software development work required to achieve the initial commercialisation stage is expected to take up to 12 months. This has to be done partly in collaboration with a robotics company, and also the building design company to ensure the first buildings to be solved are viable projects.
Revcad anticipate expanding initially to recruit programmers for basic services, such as graphics and presentation, and also programmers to engage in parametric building design for any new proposed buildings, and programmers to interface our software to third party software for validation. Revcad are bringing to the table our initial building design proposals for commercialization but these must be validated and adjusted as necessary by the building design experts.
Given this is such a large project with such massive potential, we expect a major robot manufacturer will become a partner to design and produce the necessary robots.
The development of the robotic hardware is something that should begin at the earliest opportunity. For this to happen the initial commercial building project/s must be decided upon and Revcad must develop the software to the point where we can determine the optimum size of the robots required to do the build. These parameters will then allow the robot company to build the robots.
The robotics company should be encouraged to design the robots using parametric design technology so they can be resized quickly and easily to fit different projects. One aspect of the project that may be new for robotics companies is that of the power pack. We anticipate the use of batteries – like car batteries to drive the robots – and the development of docking stations for them to recharge. This may be an area requiring development, so the robotics companies need to be made aware of these technical demands at the earliest opportunity. In short the work of designing robots can commence as soon as Revcad are settled on their design – even if decisions are not yet made on their scale, and the work on power pack development can begin immediately. Revcad will therefore need to collaborate constantly with the robot designers.
The steel company may be a source of investment for the completion of the software to the point of commercialization. They will also provide the global clout required to draw together the other major partners needed for the project, in collaboration with Revcad, including the robotics company and construction company in return for the right to supply materials to the builds.
As already mentioned, Revcad have generated initial iconic building design proposals that should be attractive to many cities. These designs are also facilities with purpose which should make them attractive to developing cities.
The building design experts will be required to validate these as viable designs, or adjust them to become such. They will also need to develop plans for laying the foundations of the building. The validation may be extensive as it will require validation at each stage of the build, and must validate its ability to support the robots at each stage. As part of the project we therefore anticipate interfacing Revcad’s software to third party analysis software to perform this comprehensive validation.
The building design company will be required to find the customer/cities to accept the initial construction project and therefore to obtain the necessary funding for it. Revcad are hopeful that London will accept the initial project for a ‘Canopy’ – either crossing the Thames, or in a park.
The building design expert may be able to help by using their status and prestige to help draw together the needed robotics company, and the construction company that will manage the construction.
The work of the building design company will run concurrently with the completion of the software by Revcad, and our work will therefore be done partly in collaboration with the building designers where relevant.
We anticipate the Steel Company or Building Design Company project managers will secure a partnership with at least one construction company – maybe one of their existing partners.
The construction company will be responsible for preparing foundations ready for construction and putting all the necessary support machinery in place for the manufacture of tubes on site, and creating docking sites for the robots.
Beyond set up and during construction the construction company will be responsible for supply and delivery of materials – mainly tube steel. Maintenance of robots. Clean-up and maintenance in the tube cutting stations. Loading and retrieving the robots into/from their docking stations. Oversight of the construction via the control software Revcad supply – though it is anticipated Revcad themselves will have a permanent presence until the initial projects are completed and the technology refined and proven. Recovery of temporary materials (e.g. scaffold). Maintenance of power supply and power supply equipment. Maintenance of media technology. Etc.
There will be a need for training and technology transfer from both the building design company, and Revcad to the construction company.
Much of the work of the construction company can begin when Revcad and the robot manufacturer reach a stage where they have a definite build solution for the initial project, but they can be informed of the demands upon them at an earlier time so they can make any preparation they feel are required – e.g. recruitment.
Preliminary Test Projects
It is anticipated that it will make sense to run small test projects using small scale robots and less complex building designs to prove the technology. This is likely to solve many of the initial problems as the new technology cuts its teeth, but may be more expensive. Alternatively the full size robots can be put to work on small test pads to prove their capability, and then the same robots transferred to the first project. This may make economic sense, and provide as much testing as needed before the first project. Decisions on this must be made after discussions with all partners.
All that has been discussed so far is achievable with the necessary ambition and imagination, and of course the technological skills to pull it off. But this document would not be complete if we didn’t dream a little and take a cautious peek into future possibilities we anticipate with this technology.
Although this proposal has focused on tubular steel structures, this is by no means the end of the possibilities this new technology raises. The reason is because the tube steel construction can not only erect buildings, but also scaffold. This scaffold is stripped down by the robots on completion but what this means is we can potentially use the gradually changing scaffold build using bricks or blocks using the robots, or other materials by building with specialized robots from the scaffold. In this way it is even feasible that we could replicate existing iconic buildings such as Westminster Abbey, or Salisbury Cathedral, and it could be done at a relatively small cost. The giant scaffold can effectively be made to work like a giant 3D printer for buildings, printing a building layer by layer from the ground up. Cities around the world that want some kind of history, such as American cities that have none of this, can effectively think of replicating beautiful and iconic structures around the world once the software is developed to handle it.
We are now pushing the boundaries of this idea, but automatic building is something that NASA and others have been considering for a long time. This technology, once developed, could potentially contribute to the establishment of space ports on other planets providing the materials and machines can be delivered. For this to be possible the technology will have to mature to be completely reliable to build remotely in this way without human intervention, but the possibility is certainly one to be considered, and for that reason alone if no other, this project is expected to be a more than worthwhile pursuit. I reiterate that at this point this is not the primary goal, and that we must first develop and prove this technology on our own planet first. But once the technology is developed and working to our satisfaction this becomes a tantalising possibility.
Exploration in the deep oceans, especially with the oil and gas industry may prove another area of application for this technology, where rigs can constructed remotely and automatically without the need for a human presence. The same demands and principles apply as for the inter-planetary building, so there may be a future for this technology, once it is mature, in this field of industry.
Demonstration of Technology
We(Revcad) are in a position to demonstrate the following working software, or proof of concept software technology, including our history of developing software for complex structural design.
Structural Design Software
Software design of complex structures in both sheet metal and tubular steel. The tube steel joints generated can be complex but still have perfect fit between joined components, and have an ideal cut/weld path for all joints no matter how complex.
Robotic Cut/Weld Path
Generation and visualization of the robotic path for all joints of tubular steel, and more complex sheet metal components (though the latter is not required for this project). This shows a visualization of a robotic cutting/welding head tracking around the 3D cut of any tube in a design.
Lathe Cutting Path
Generation and visualization of the lathe cutting path for the manufacture of tube steel components. This shows a visualization of the individual tubes extracted from the building design onto a lathe for manufacture.
Generation of standard G-Code for the manufacture of all tube steel components. This data is the product of the tube steel design system that can be used for manufacturing the tube steel components.
The design system for designing robots with all the necessary limbs, joints, and degrees of freedom to develop robots designed for automated construction. This includes walking/climbing robots, robots arms for handling, cutting and welding, and other designs such as humanoid robots.
Parametrically driven building design software for the design of buildings. This is mostly seen in the generation of the Canopy structure, but the underlying technology is applicable to many other building designs.
The testbed and control system software for controlling the robots. This includes the walking/climbing robots and the movement of robotic arms.
Robot Control for Building
Demonstrates the robots have been integrated to the tubular building design system so the robots are able to navigate their way across the building structure and are able to use the tube cutting data for tube placement, and to weld the tubes in place.
Revcad require an investment to complete the software development, and to provide for the necessary and preferred expansion of the company to go forward at the maximum possible pace. This means for us to obtain the additional software expertise and personnel we need to complete the software, especially to handle those parts of the development that are more routine and don’t demand any of our specialist skills. Then we have a need to expand the personnel that do share our specialist skills. We also need administrative and project management personnel to spread the load and keep the project moving.
Given the scale and potential of this project, and the fact that a proof of concept has been reached already, and that all the software foundations necessary to prove the project have already been laid, we feel Revcad should not be ‘strapped for cash’ in any way once this partnership agreement is reached, but that we should obtain the necessary investment to allow this project to go forward at full speed without hindrance.
In return for the investment Revcad will form an exclusive partnership with the investor on the future global commercialization of this project according to terms agreed by both parties.
We anticipate a long and fruitful partnership with the investor, and a commercial arrangement that will provide a fair share of the returns to all parties.
We anticipate that this investment will be drawn from either a building design company, a robotics company, or construction companies. We believe once these partners realise the truly massive potential of this project the investment we need, though significant, will be seen as a trivial sum.
Revcad will be able to offer all the help needed to the investors to convince these other partners to join the initiative, probably by means of demonstrations of the software at its current stage of development, and through presentations and personal contact with us.
Revcad intend to use the investment to expand to a six man company that includes Trevor, then 3 programmers to take the load of the more routine programming required – services, interfacing etc. Then a manager to keep the project rolling by collating and relaying information, particularly to Trevor who will need to stay in touch will all developments while the software progresses. And finally an administrator. There will also be a requirement for offices and equipment, and the funds should cover all costs for at least 2 years, though we expect to complete the software to a working level for the initial projects within 12 months.
This plan represents route one - the quickest route to completion and commercialisation, which, given the scale and value of the project is in our view a necessity to make the commercial best of this opportunity.
The actual levels of investment needed, and the various options and conditions will be discussed once the demonstrations have been made. This section gives some indication of what we intend to achieve with that investment.
Once again let me say we (Revcad) look forward with anticipation to this adventure in technology in partnership with the investor, and we sincerely hope we can form this agreement with you.
Appendix 1 – History & Technological Foundations
Revcad Ltd is currently 90% owned by Trevor Maddison, who is also a director, and 10% is owned by a company called Business Builder Ltd. who are linked to Leicester Chamber of Commerce having provided investment for previous projects. Business Builder is a non-profit organization whose main purpose is to stimulate business in the UK. One of their members – Paul Murphy – is also a director.
Trevor Maddison is the person who has all the skills for this project. He is the author of all the software and he has extensive engineering experience in many branches of engineering, from his early beginnings in mining, to automotive software development, 3D sheet metal design software, and steel construction software. Trevor’s experience in these fields is probably as wide as it could possibly be having been involved in the computer revolution from very early days, and he is therefore ideally suited to this scale of project.
Revcad are the developers and owners of 3D CAD software applications directed towards the sheet metal industry. Our software products provide highly versatile systems for creating complex and unusual designs for the sheet metal industry – but also many users have adapted the software for use in many other niche product fields, including significantly the adoption of the sheet metal capability for the design of tubular steel building construction projects. Examples of these can be seen on the website (http://www.revcad.com). Significantly over the years the software has also been used for some major projects such conduit for hydro-electric power stations in Vietnam and Malaysia.
Trevor was originally trained as an engineer by British Coal under a 9 year training programme nationally recognized by large industrial and military organizations, and then employed by the mining industry in the management and maintenance of mining installations. He is legally qualified to take charge of a mine as the statutory Mechanical Engineer. The same training programme was used by the Royal Navy for management and maintenance of ships. In the mining industry Trevor gained wide exposure to, and experience in many fields of engineering during this time.
Trevor began his learning curve in engineering at a very young age, learning much from his father who was a world leading stress engineer for Rolls Royce (Aircraft), and then later as a contractor for Marconi, British Rail, British Aerospace and others. In these early years Trevor installed his first car engine alone at age 13, then went on to have a collection of many cars and motorbikes in his mid-teens, and to build go-karts and other devices in his schooling years.
From 1988 onwards Trevor took redundancy from the shrinking mining industry and began developing the current software packages now owned by Revcad, and undertaking contract work on other engineering software development for third parties. The products owned by Revcad have continued to develop and have been redeveloped twice over the years to upgrade them to new software technologies and operating systems.
Most significantly the contract work undertaken by Trevor included the development of virtual engines and gearboxes for design and virtual analysis to reduce the development test cycle for large automotive companies, and the development of software that today underpins their reliability and competitiveness for many present day automotive manufacturers, and other industries with similar interests. Trevor therefore developed his own software techniques in these years for modelling complex mechanical mechanisms – skills and knowledge that have now been developed and applied in this project to the virtual development of robots for building construction.
Throughout the years Trevor has become a leading expert in his field of software development, having developed his own unique programming philosophy and a host of tools and techniques that underpin all development by Revcad. These have proven to be reliable and efficient, avoiding many of the bear traps that exist in the software industry for inexperienced programmers. The proof of this is the fact that Trevor has single handedly developed and maintained some specialised CAD systems that are widely used around the world, and have become the very basis of business for many industries, providing them with capabilities for both the design and manufacture of their products – a feat that very few in the world have managed, and in most cases it has required a whole team of programmers. Accomplishing this so efficiently stems from the unique nature of the programming techniques that have been developed. Revcad therefore claim unique expertise in their programming techniques that enables them to develop reliable software rapidly, and to push the boundaries of engineering design.
When it comes to software design Trevor has a natural skill, partly from many years of experience in the industry (now 27 years), but also from a fairly tenacious problem solving streak in his character that allows him to innovatively push the boundaries of what is possible in the application of software, and take good decisions on his methodologies and ideologies that have come to underpin his software development enterprises. He is also highly pragmatic – something that has been learned through his real world experience in such industries as mining.
Trevor also has recent hardware experience having spent a ‘time-out’ year developing a device known as the ‘Fishing Scope’ for which he prepared and filed patents, and produced a working prototype, having obtained research grant funds for the project from the government. This is an electronic scope, like a gun scope, that fits on an archery bow for exact targeting using the bow. Its novelty feature, and the main reason funds were granted for its development were its ability to be used for bowfishing – a niche sport that is particularly popular in the USA for catching fish using a bow. The scope had a feature that allowed it to compensate for the refraction in water, thus allowing an underwater target to be accurately targeted from above the surface, rather than by the guesswork normally needed. This project required Trevor to work in many fields of research simultaneously, including: mathematical modeling, mechanical design, electronics design, optical design, and computer software development for both driving mechanisms, and for image processing. The project produced a first working prototype, but came to a halt because the project finished in 2008 just after the financial crash, at which time it proved impossible to obtain funding to complete the development to the final prototype stage. However the working prototype is still held by Revcad and can still be completed, but we now feel we have a much bigger fish to fry in the form of this project, and so we are now devoted to that as our primary objective.
In addition to these projects Trevor has written two books; one that is philosophical (published), and the other a comedy (not yet openly published).
The technology underpinning this proposed project has already developed to the point where it can be demonstrated, and to a point where Revcad see no major obstacles to its completion. It is therefore only a matter of time for Revcad to develop the software on towards generating the final build solution, and we have therefore chosen to begin to expose the technology to potential partners because it will soon be essential for the other partners to commence their work. We have therefore reached a stage where the necessary investment must be obtained for Revcad to complete the work by the shortest possible route. This includes the collaborative development of robotic hardware, and the development and validation of the building designs that are the final objective of the project.
Appendix 2 – Robot Capability
This section provides an outline of the anticipated capability of the robots Revcad have designed, and will design for this project that will enable them to construct the proposed buildings from start to finish.
First of all the robot design software has already been developed to allow Revcad to configure specific robot designs for specific purposes, containing whatever limbs, joints, and degrees of freedom required to give them the versatility to perform their task. We should not therefore limit our understanding of the term robot to anything we are familiar with, such as a human or animal forms, because all forms of mechanism are possible. However nature is full of common sense solutions so many ideal designs for our purposes have their parallels in nature and we have been able to draw on that wealth of information to make decisions on exactly how our robots should be configured to best serve their purpose of building construction. At the fundamental level the robot software converts the joint movements of the robot, which are largely rotational like an elbow or a shoulder, into linear or curved movements – a complex process that requires fairly sophisticated computing to get the result.
Climbing robots have been designed already with at least four holds on the climbing frame structure. This means one hold can be moved while the other three keep the robot perfectly stable and clamped to the structure in a triangular hold formation. The holds have claws that grip to the tube steel and clamp it to the structure. The robots therefore have no need for balance which makes them much simpler than some of the free ranging humanoid or animal form robots under development in the world today.
The robots navigate around the structure purely through their inbuilt knowledge of the structure they are climbing, which comes from the software and its loaded design model. There is therefore no need for a robot vision system because the environment is completely controlled and known entirely at every stage of the build. The software holds a complete model at every stage of the build so the robot always knows what geometrical structure to expect around it at every instant. However vision systems, or at least distance measurement detectors may be added, but these are only to validate the expectations of the robots and to make adjustments for slight discrepancies as they are discovered. The software will absorb this data and adjust the internal model to cater for this data feedback.
One main robot already designed has been named ‘Lizzy’ because of its (her) lizard-like movement. Others consist of a single arm with many joints and some kind of tool mounted at the end, such as a welding torch, or cutting torch. Lizzy is designed to carry different rigs that can be exchanged for different purposes. In practice this switching of rigs may be implemented, or alternatively different rigs may be given to different robots so the appropriate robot performs the appropriate task. In free movement Lizzy and other robots are able to perform many different exercises such as squatting, stretching, stepping, reaching, rolling, spinning etc. Some of this will be demonstrated through choreographed movement (or dance) routines. This means this robots has huge versatility enabling it to climb and navigate a tubular structure with relative ease. The intention is to push the navigation capability so the robot can even climb over an edge of the structure onto the underside and navigate its way across the structure upside down. Further development is required to reach this point, but all the necessary fundamental movements for it are already possible. It will also become possible for robots to work together in pairs or as a team, and even for one robot to carry another to deploy it for local work on the structure. Lizzy is designed to carry a tube payload so a structure can be built. This is something like an ant or termite building a nest. It repeatedly returns to a docking station to collect a new piece of the build and then transports it into position, and then uses a welding rig to weld it in place. The welding rig, already virtually designed, is made to work in pairs so the diametrical opposites of a tube are welded simultaneously. This helps to eliminate the distortion caused by weld run cooling with the two opposite weld run distortions balancing out.
Further work is needed to continue to improve the movement of the robots until they can perform all kinds of movements and reach all the necessary places on the build. More and different rigs are also required to handle the different tubular member payloads that form the build for the robot to be able to place them all and perform the necessary work on them. Work is also required to enable the robot to handle scaffold. This means not only placing it and welding it into position, but also the ability to disassemble it and strip it back down and remove it at the appropriate time/s in the build process – all of which is ant-like behavior.
There is the possibility of making the robots work together with cranes, which themselves can be built by the robots. But on the whole we anticipate the total elimination of cranes by using the climbing robots instead. This has the advantage of unleashing the build to have any scale we choose, limited only by the limits of the materials involved. It also keeps neat interfaces to the build at the docking stations only.
We anticipate tube cutting stations will manufacture the tubes on the site of the build near each docking station and the manufactured tubes will then be transferred by robot arms or mechanisms to the docked robots and loaded as a payload ready for transport to their final position. So robot arms with cutting heads will cut the tubes to shape immediately before they are loaded onto the docked robot for transportation up the structure. This removes any need for correctly locating the tube payload on the robot as would be necessary for remote manufacturing because it is all done in one operation. The tube manufacture in the tube stations therefore becomes part of the show, so all that is required is to load the raw tube materials into the tube stations and the rest of the operation is automated.
The main job of the software is to take any configuration of robot and work out a solution to get all tube members into position and weld them there as required. The software therefore does a massive amount of computation to come up with a solution which is only loosely guided by the operator to produce the right result. As the software seeks a solution it will validate each step not only geometrically, but also structurally to prove the structure can carry the weight of the robot as it works on it without unacceptable distortion. Ideally we will reach the point where any structure can be built and a build solution found, then generally where it fails it simply means a new or better configuration of robot is needed to do the work. When a solution is finally found for a building the software will then do a final run to generate every minute movement to produce the result. This is like the final rendering of an animated action movie where every hair of the characters becomes visible. Once a build solution is found for a particular building it can then be used repeatedly to build exactly the same building just by setting the foundations and repeating the process – something we believe will have huge commercial value.
Often a build will progress using the counterbalance method for the structure, so it is balanced at all times. This means that multiple robots may work on a structure at opposite sides of a structure with their movements coordinated to keep that perfect balance.
Similarly once the build is complete we anticipate robots being used in choreographed movement as an attraction, so this will require the software to be able to coordinate all movement of multiple robots at the same time. Perhaps a robot will be able to climb to a point and offer a flower to a passer-by. Maybe a robot will transfer a pod from one place to another containing people, as a kind of specialised lift and ride combined. Maybe robots will climb the structure and raise the national flag each day. The possibilities are endless. The software must become sophisticated enough for these coordinated movements to be fully defined by the software with the same easy as movie animation software.
Appendix 3 – Canopy Building Design
The ‘Canopy’, or ‘River Canopy’ design is the primary initial design Revcad have created, and are proposing to develop the robotic software to build it as the first build project. This structure is spherical in shape with arches passing through it, so it looks something like the base of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This means the building has four corner foundations that support the whole structure.
We anticipate the Canopy design to become very popular around the world for spanning rivers, and possibly to add a floor beneath the main structure with restaurants or cafes, or other facilities that will be an attraction to the public. These can become places to relax and view this iconic and elegant structure, as well as the river, and possibly watch or interact with the spectacle of robots navigating their way over the structure. The River Canopy may also provide a means of crossing the river, or a place to board boat trips on the river – there are many possibilities.
Potentially the Canopy can also have a roof layer, which is also assembled by robots, and that may possibly be transparent to allow the structure to still be seen, but to provide cover from the weather for the purpose of holding open air events beneath it, such as concerts or sporting events. This may apply to the River Canopy application, but may also be useful in a park or other open space.
The Canopy structure itself is very elegant and has aesthetic appeal in its own right. This alone we anticipate to become a public attraction for any city. The prospect of utilizing it as a facility only makes it more appealing, and the prospect of offering a spectacular display of robot technology, with the potential for rides or other public interactions we anticipate will draw huge interest from many cities around the world, possible moving us into a new age of architecture.
There is huge potential for a canopy building in a park to develop robots that can automatically setup the building ground structure for different events. This is a kind of radical extension to the kind of adaptability now seen in structures such as Wimbledon Center Court, and various stadiums around the world, with their automated roof opening/closing. We anticipate trucks shipping in materials and robots assembling structure beneath the canopy on a short timescale, perhaps for some kind of huge show. Then on completion the robots will strip it back down and reload the trucks. Many new kinds of show become possible with this kind of ease of setup, which may push the theatrical opportunities in the city to a whole new level. There may for example be great potential for robotic shows using giant robots.
Some tubular steel structures have been created around the world that have ugly flange connections to the tubes that make the construction possible. These connection appendages tend to diminish the aesthetic appeal of the structure. Our robotic technology has the advantage of not needing these spoilers because all members are welded in place with perfect joint connectivity, thus preserving the aesthetic appeal of the structure.
In terms of size the canopy can be truly huge because the size limitation is defined only by the limits of the materials used. If a larger scale building is needed then it is possible simply by using larger scale robots. To give some idea of the possibilities, canopies have been generated virtually with a 200m span between side corner foundations, which is enough to cross the river Thames near Westminster with the foundation plinths placed a short way within the bounds of the river, and the height ascending perhaps 40m above Big Ben. Robots for this size of structure may have a leg span of 7m or more, so they are of considerable size, and may appear like an ant or a stick insect in form, with various rigs attached. I reiterate that the limitation is only that of the materials, and what is possible therefore depends on the size and shape of the foundations, but this gives an idea of the possible scale of buildings we are considering here. In terms of creating a spectacle then it is probably the case that the bigger the better. For spanning rivers a Canopy can be created to match the span of the river, but there is of course no restriction on either placing the foundations well back on the river banks, or within the river itself if necessary. If placed on the bank it has the advantage of a minimalist foundation so it can rise up from among other building structures. The main problems to resolve in terms of space may only therefore be the location of temporary tube manufacturing stations and docking stations during construction.
The Canopy itself, as it currently exists, has two central arches running diagonally over the structure and meeting at the top middle of the sphere. Once these arches are in place the rest of the construction can use its strength to allow the robots to fan out and build the remaining structure. However the initial construction of the arch is a major challenge, but a methodology has been developed to accomplish this entirely with the robots, given only the necessary foundations to commence with. The details of this procedure are not covered here except to say a solution has been developed ready for discussions and validation with the Building Design Company.
The parametric design of the Canopy allows for multiple layers or skins if necessary, or for multiple layer thickness to just the central arches to give the structure greater strength. Such a design is more sophisticated than a single layer but the robotic software and robot designs (and rigs) will be advanced to build with this level of complexity as it is required. We simply anticipate designing special rigs to be carried by the robots for this kind of member placement.
Once spherical canopies are successfully built the parametric design software can be used to create many variations of the same kind of design. For example oval structures would be a simple advancement, perhaps to allow for housing football pitches that have greater length than width.
There is huge potential for tube steel art to become a popular attraction, or to create tubular structures that become a frame for other forms of art on a massive scale.
Such facilities as stadiums or aerodromes in tube steel are already popular, but are anticipated to be even more popular structures around the world once this technology becomes available.
One great advantage of the robot construction method is the technology is easily transferable across the world and the skills to use it are not too difficult to develop. We can therefore anticipate many similar projects running concurrently around the world in the future to create similar building designs.
Appendix 4 – Tube Steeler Software
The tube steel design software developed by Revcad is called Tube Steeler. This program has not so far been released on the open market but instead held in reserve and used for contract work, and kept by Revcad in anticipation of its application to this project.
Selling software licenses is not the most commercially rewarding business in the world, though some clearly make a reasonable living from it. We have therefore for some time been seeking a major hardware based application of our software with a view to developing a more rewarding niche. The robotic building construction was the idea we finally settled on, and realised it is in fact a major (i.e. monster) opportunity, so for a while now we have been developing the software to bring it to the proof of concept stage.
Tube Steeler (TS) stems from another program we (Revcad) own and sell that is on the open market – a program called ‘Sheet Lightning’ (SL) for the purpose of 3D sheet metal design and unfolding. Once a design is complete the generated data is passed on to cutting software. In many ways Tube Steeler is a cut down version of Sheet Lightning in that it only deals with tube rather than all the more complex objects and shapes we can create in sheet metal. Of course TS can still handle these more complex objects, and that may be something to exploit in future, but the focus has been on the tube steel market as by far the largest market our products can serve.
TS has been expanded to generate G-Code (standard manufacturing code) for the many manufacturing machines out there. There was also work done to make the software generate the G-Code for designs over the internet rather than embed the capability in the software in order to prevent piracy – a problem that we constantly face with our open market software products. This way our plan was to distribute the software freely, but obtain revenue for the sales of G-Code generated from the design models over the internet. However as the prospect of the current project has emerged our focus has shifted to the robotic building construction as by far the greatest prospect for us with our software, though also very ambitious. This is a challenge that is now paying off because all the major problems for robotic construction are now considered by us to be solved and the rest is just further application and refinement.
The unique capability of TS is that it can form a complex joint out of any number of members and solve it to give 5-axis cutting paths for all members such that the joint will fit perfectly together. Complexity has for a long time been the niche specialism of Sheet Lightning and that capability has been inherited by Tube Steeler for tube steel joints. In reality designs on the whole tend to try to keep joints simple, and this is a good design practice if possible, but it is useful to have the capability to do the very complex where it is needed, and this can often be the most aesthetically pleasing.
There is in fact nothing to lose by releasing TS onto the open market, except that it takes quite a bit of work to polish software to the point of open release. However the returns are not likely to be in the same ballpark as the robotics project so we have resisted taking that step at least until agreements have been made on the bigger project.
TS is now an integrated part of the robotics software used to generate the profiles of tube members ready to be assembled into a construction and welded in place. This data is also used for the tube manufacture of course. The robots therefore interact with the TS design model to understand their environment, and navigate around it.
Appendix 5 – Construction Applications
This is a speculative list of some anticipated applications of this new technology:
- Building construction.
- Bridge construction.
- Stadium construction.
- Temporary outdoor Theatre/Platform/Stage construction.
- Roof construction.
- Undersea construction.
- Interplanetary construction.
- Building maintenance.
- Versatile loading systems.
- Robotic performance shows.
- Amusement rides.
- Novel lifts/elevators.
- Rescue/evacuation systems.
- Roadway construction – flyovers/temporary diversions – elevated roadways.
- Railway construction – elevated.
- Airport construction.
- Canopy construction.
- Park construction.
- Plant construction.
- Inspection systems – manned/automated.
- Building scaffolding.
Copyright © Revcad Ltd 2016