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Will robots enable an architectural renaissance?

A Danish startup is using industrial robotics to tackle difficult-to-produce freeform architecture

Robotic construction company Odico has raised nearly $5 million after listing on Nasdaq First North this month.

The startup is part of a growing number of robotics companies focused on the construction industry, which has been operating in largely the same way for over a century. The market for construction robots is set to grow to $166.4 million by 2023, according to research from Markets & Markets.

Odico's niche is freeform architecture incorporating complex shapes, which are exceedingly difficult to manufacture using conventional methods.

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"Throughout at least five thousand years, architects have been working with a lot of constraints and dependencies in their work," says Odico CEO Anders Bundsgaard. "Our work and this new technology will remove a lot of these conditions."

The company's flagship manufacturing system incorporates industrial robots that bend a heated blade while another manipulates a foam block. Together, the robots create foam casting molds for what are called double-curved geometries, such as domes (a cone, by comparison, is a single-curve geometry).

The molds can be used to make building materials that would otherwise have to be custom sourced from specialized design shops and shipped at huge expense.

"We are able to introduce amorphous elements in standard constructions," says Bundsgaard, "without increasing cost."

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That means that design features previously reserved for only the best-funded development projects will now be on the menu for more architects, which could have a substantial impact on architectural design going forward.

Odico's manufacturing process has already attracted the attention of forward-thinking firms, including the Bjarke Ingels Group, known for designing affordable buildings that incorporate sustainable development practices.

The next step for Odico is to make their robotic manufacturing system mobile. By fitting all the components inside a ready-to-deploy shipping container, Odico can will be able to eliminate many of the logistics constraints in modern construction.

"A big step for Odico will be turning ourselves from a manufacturing company to be a technology supplier," says Bundsgaard.