Site layout: Better with bots

HP’s SitePrint robot is faster, more efficient, and more accurate than leaving the task solely to human hands.

HP’s SitePrint robot. (Source: HP)

No question about it, HP knows the world of printing, having made a name for itself in the business world with office machines. So, what happens when HP applies its printing know-how outside the office environment and combines it with robotic? A machine that can autonomously transfer digital layouts onto construction-site floors quickly and without error, saving time and money by eliminating the need for redoes because of human error.

The robot is compact and portable but rugged enough to work at even the most challenging of sites. It is highly accurate in its transfer of information from digital files to the physical floor and can print multiple elements aside from lines, including intricate arcs and points with exacting precision, and even text for additional communication at the construction site.

According to HP, users can achieve up to 10× productivity gain by using the device as opposed to performing the task manually, turning weeks of construction-site layout into days. Just how fast it works depends on the line density and the complexity of the print task. HP provided the example of a recent 2,400-square-foot project by international construction company Skanska that took 7 hours to print the walls by layout technicians, while it took only 45 minutes using SitePrint.

The robot is controlled by the so-called brain, aka the Robotic Total Station, a slim, upright tripod stand with an attached touchscreen for remote control and configuration that is set up on site. It knows where the bot is at all times on the ground. Cloud tools are used to submit and prepare jobs to be printed, manage the robot, and track usage. Only one operator is needed to run the Total Station and the bot.

To operate the device, a CAD file is loaded into the HP SitePrint, and SitePrint is then linked to the Total Station for positioning; the robot is then set free to traverse the site while printing the information onto the floor surface. Its obstacle avoidance system enables it to navigate unencumbered; it also contains cliff sensors to avoid unknown elements not included in the obstacle layer of the CAD drawing.

The robot uses various inks in terms of color and durability (from those that fade in days to others that fade in weeks and even months) depending on the use scenarios including surface type and environmental conditions. It is also capable of changing from one surface to another (porous and nonporous alike), even with a minimal elevation difference. HP noted it can overcome concrete roughness or any other obstacle up to 2 cm thick and will continue to print accurately even when operating at a tilt.

Everything needed to execute the print layout, including the software, service, maintenance, and supplies, will be included, and users will be charged a single fee per square foot. This makes it easy to predict the usage cost.

HP SitePrint is available to customers through an Easy Access Program, available now for US customers via rental on a per-project basis and charged as a service based on the project’s size. A wider launch is planned for 2023, when more details governing cost will be released.