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Discover ABBy, the robot that builds log houses

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ABBy – that’s its name – is a seven-axis robot that, using a 3D laser scanner, builds log houses.

The catchy-nicknamed machine is the brainchild of Dusko Ballmer of Mattawa, Ontario.

Ballmer said his company, Ballmer Systems Inc., is the only company in the world capable of producing handcrafted log homes with machinery.

“All the other companies that build log homes do it by hand, with chainsaws,” Ballmer said. “But ABBy can cut logs with great precision, so the logs can be put together like LEGO bricks to make houses that are not only cheaper, but also very energy efficient.”

The way to build log homes hasn’t changed for centuries, Ballmer said.

Handcrafted log homes that are constructed with natural log forms provide the tightest fit, but require countless hours of labor and skill to produce.

Chainsaws are used to shape logs and over the past 100 years the chainsaw has become more effective and efficient.

“The challenge with this method comes from emissions from internal combustion engine saws,” Ballmer said. “The chainsaw also requires training and safety equipment for the operator. Worker fatigue can lead to lower quality work or, worse, injury.

JOHN BOYS

In addition, the construction of log houses using chainsaws is time consuming and expensive.

“Building this way contributes 30 percent of the cost of your log home,” Ballmer said.

ABB Robotics Canada is a partner in the project.

“They provided a new robot – ABBy – along with the tools and manpower to operate and maintain all the equipment,” Ballmer said. “The partnership also gives us access to more advanced and convenient robots.”

To bring the logs to the stage where they can be put together to create a log house, Ballmer begins by peeling the logs.

“We peel the logs using high pressure water with a rotating nozzle,” Ballmer said. “This allows us to retain the natural shape of the logs.”

Then the logs are scanned at a speed of 1.5 meters per second, with a tolerance of 0.02 millimeters.

Finally, the log is cut to a tolerance of 0.07 millimeters.

Ballmer took the scenic route to founding his company.

“Many years ago, I was taking a break from my job as a software engineer and took a course on crafting log homes,” he said. “But the moment the instructor started teaching the chainsaw, I knew it wasn’t for me. Far too dangerous, too noisy and too physical.

“Two years later, out of the blue, I realized how it would be possible to produce these houses using machines. I decided to devote my time to this project with the aim of building log houses affordable for everyone.

Ballmer also wanted to help companies that make homemade log homes stay in business, as they are slowly disappearing.

Nicola Logworks Limited in Merritt, BC was Ballmer’s first customer.

“We use ABBy to cut our post and beam log homes, architectural components and spiral staircases,” said Nicola founder and owner John Boys.

“We call robot-assisted log construction ABBy,” he said. “The benefits of using it are many. We can produce more efficiently, more accurately and most importantly, we can leave the heavy lifting to it, leaving our team of log builders free to focus on the finer details. .

The boys said the robot turned out to have many benefits.

“ABBy’s log building robot not only helps us produce our existing product line more efficiently, but it also gave us the opportunity to develop new product lines,” he said.

For example, Nicola’s Advantage log panel system is much cheaper than the more laborious and expensive method of cutting logs by hand.

“We’ve been using ABBy for about five years,” Boys said. “There were some growing pains at first, because we were the first to use Ballmer’s system, but now we’ve solved the problems.”

The boys said using ABBy to do the heavy lifting not only makes logs and log homes more affordable, but also gives Nicola more design flexibility.

“All of this is the result of the efficient use of robotic technology that allows us to maintain the natural shape of the logs,” he said.

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