‘Factory in a Box’ to tackle UK housebuilding shortfall

Posted on 12 Dec 2018 by Jonny Williamson

A manufacturer and a robotics firm have teamed up with Innovate UK to develop a revolutionary ‘factory in a box’ to produce commercial roof tiles.

The facility has been described as a plug-and-play factory in a box - image courtesy of CNC Robotics.
The facility has been described as a plug-and-play ‘factory in a box’ – image courtesy of CNC Robotics.

CNC Robotics, a leading machining robotics integrator, and SunScape Systems, a manufacturer of innovative roof slates for housebuilding, are working together to develop a new factory in a box system after securing funding from Innovate UK.

The joint venture will implement a dynamic and repeatable ‘SMART’ manufacturing solution in the form of a Modular Automated Roof Tile Factory.

The facility has been described as a plug-and-play system, specifically built and calibrated offsite to manufacture SSL’s Carapace Slate, a patent-protected, bio-composite snap-fit roof tile system.

The snap-fit system reportedly allows the Carapace Slate to be installed 90% quicker than current best-in-class alternatives, helping to increase build speed and contribute to the growth of construction.

Once developed, the ‘factory in a box’ can be built and calibrated offsite, and then made ready to be deployed to any location capable of housing its footprint. High-volume production will be monitored and operated through advanced cloud-based and IoT technology.

Founder of CNC Robotics, Jason Baker commented: “This is a great example of how SMEs can work collaboratively to solve a national issue. The Factory in a Box utilises infrastructural innovation and close teamwork to tackle the UK’s housing crisis.”

UK construction is in the midle of a continued period of growth, largely stimulated by an ongoing government policy to build an additional 300,000 houses a year beyond 2025.

Given the scale of the UK roofing market, a suitable manufacturing infrastructure is required to produce Carapace at volume if it is to address the deficit between construction output and available labour.

According to SunScape Systems, traditional, methods of production have led to an alarming supply deficit which is challenging government policy to alleviate the housing crisis.


CNC Robotics was shortlisted for The Manufacturer MX Awards 2019 in the category of ‘Innovation & Design’.

Visit CNC Robotics at the Smart Factory Expo on stand B34
Multi³ is a new smart product for smaller manufacturers to embrace robotic technology into their workshops – image courtesy of CNC Robotics.

The business also showcased its latest innovation – Multi³ – at this year’s Smart Factory Expo, part of The Manufacturer’s Digital Manufacturing Week.

Despite the enormous economic potential of automation, only a small percentage of UK manufacturers have a strategy to embed robotics in their businesses due to the significant financial investment required. Multi³ aims to address that.

Many SMEs don’t require a vast automation system. The nature of their business is high-tech, small volume with fast turn-around times. A large investment and setup costs for a bespoke robot system often makes implementation prohibitive.

To that end, CNC Robotics has launched Multi³ – a new smart product for smaller manufacturers to embrace robotic technology into their workshops.

Essentially, it is a simplified, ready-to-use automated, flexible system whose shape can be configured to fit a manufacturing space in the UK and overseas.

This new ‘plug and play’ machining and trimming solution is also being offered as-a-service, allowing SMEs to manage cash flow, have less upfront capital outlay and peace-of-mind maintenance and support included in one price.