Semi-Automated Tile-Laying Aid

  Digital twin ErgoFli lays tiles Copyright: © IGMR


Photo of Jan Wiartalla © Copyright: IGMR


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  Gripper with tile and sensor Copyright: © IGMR Real test of local sensor technology with a robotic arm.

The semi-automated tile-laying aid ErgoFli reduces unergonomic postures by automatically handling tiles and tile adhesive and lays tiles at 12 square meter per hour.

The aim of the project ErgoFli is to develop an intelligent, semi-automated tile-laying aid with a laying capacity of 12 square meter per hour. It shall reduce non-ergonomic postures of tile-laying persons by up to 66 percent through its intuitive user interface, automated handling of tiles and tile glue, and intelligent control.


Manual laying of floor tiles is a strenuous and laborious process that must be performed mainly in non-ergonomic postures. On average, occupational tile layers spend 6 hours in a working day in a stooped position. This leads to long-term physical damage in addition to a slow work rate in tiling. Tile-laying is therefore considered one of the most dangerous occupations in terms of the proportion of people receiving disability pensions.


The semi-automated, robotic tile-laying aid ErgoFli is to be designed, which can automatically apply tile adhesive to tiles and floors with buttering-floating method and lay the tiles with an accuracy of about ±0.1 millimeter. The goal of the development is to enable humans to reduce non-ergonomic work in a stooped position by more than 66 percent. The human must still manually lay and, if necessary, cut edge tiles in contact with a wall, mix tile adhesive, load the tile-laying aid with tiles and tile adhesive, navigate with a radio control system, monitor the laying process with his expertise, and clean up any parts that have come into contact with tile adhesive at the end. The ErgoFli can be moved with a motorized drive and uses linear laying kinematics to lay all interior tiles without contact with the wall. Tiles in the two formats 30x60 centimeter or 60x60 centimeter can be laid in cross bond. The robot has storage for tiles and tile adhesive, so it can be used for at least 30 minutes without refilling and manages a laying capacity of 12 squaremeter per hour while ensuring the appropriate standardized flatness tolerances.



From the challenges presented, the prototype shown above is pursued as a solution approach.

Tile depot:

The tile depot holds up to 17 60x60 centimeters or 34 30x60 centimeters tiles and makes it possible to achieve the targeted laying goal of 12 square meters per hour without refilling. The tiles are removed from the cartons and stacked at an ergonomically suitable height on an additional roller table and can then be pushed directly into the tile depot. If the 30x60 centimeter tiles are used, two stacks must be formed next to each other. A gantry system with drives is used in the ErgoFli to remove the tiles from the depot one at a time.

Gripping system:

The gripping system consists of a two-part suction pad. For the 60x60 centimeter tiles, both halves must be activated simultaneously, while the 30x60 centimeter tiles can be gripped with a single gripper half. The laying kinematics allow the robot positioning to be compensated in the plane by up to 10 centimeters in the transverse and traverse directions, as well as compensating for orientation errors. A passive compensation unit allows the tiles to first be placed on the floor at an angle and then pressed flat, so that the air under the tile is displaced and no cavity can form under the tile. A force sensor in the gripper ensures the correct contact pressure of the tile.

Applying the tile adhesive:

Before laying, tile adhesive must be applied to the floor and to the underside of the tile. For this purpose, the adhesive depot is pulled over the floor and the tile adhesive is spread via a toothed trowel on the floor and simultaneously on the tile held by the gripper in an appropriate position. This solution is chosen so that as few parts as possible, such as any piping, come into contact with the adhesive. The entire depot, including the trowel, can be removed from the robot at the end of the application for simplified cleaning.


The ErgoFli uses three laser profile sensors mounted on the gripper unit to locally align the gripped tile. Two sensors measure the joint to the tile laid directly before and the third to the tile of the previous row of tiles. The measured distances are used to control the target position for the gripper. In this way, positioning accuracies in the range of about ±0.1 millimeters can be achieved. However, longer-term measurement horizons over several tiles must also be added in order to be able to detect the accumulation of errors compared to the ideal tile grid, for example due to tile tolerances. For this purpose, an RGB camera is installed against the direction of travel, which can survey tiles up to 4 meters away. Using image recognition, it is thus possible to monitor the distances and courses of the joints. By adjusting the lo




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