The applications of robotics are vast – in the construction industry, it leads to automation of workplace activities, speeding up the fabrication process of building elements, reduced overall spending on projects. With all these benefits, contractors and construction companies think that there is no harm in welcoming robots to the field.
Especially now that workers rather sit inside an air-conditioned office rather than get dirty on the site. The shift of work preferences of the people has led to a considerable shortage of site workers around the world amid the infrastructure boom.
And the ultimate result? Embracing construction technology and innovation.
Like in one masonry company in Colorado, the employees have learned how to operate SAM, commonly known as Semi-Automated Mason. The robot is essentially a bricklayer, able to lay 3,000 bricks in an eight-hour shift. All it uses are a conveyer belt and a robotic arm, and it is set to work on the construction site all day.
But instead of fearing that SAM will take over their jobs, the employees expressed that they like getting assistance on menial tasks.
“There are lots of things that SAM isn’t capable of doing that you need skilled bricklayers to do,” said Brian Kennedy of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers to Digital Trends.
“We support anything that supports the masonry industry. We don’t stand in the way of technology.”
Video by National Science Foundation
Wooden construction is also going to have the touch of robots a lot more soon as researchers from ETH Zurich’s Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication develops a new, digital timber construction method that allows more possibilities in timber frame construction.
Using information from a computer-aided design model to cut and arrange the timber beams, it is said to enable efficient construction and assembly of geometrically complex timber modules, an effort that was never done before.
Photo via NFS Digital Fabrication
Robotics is not only making its way on masonry and wooden construction. Startups in the construction equipment sector have developed smart systems in excavators, backhoes, and other construction vehicles. The machines can now operate themselves like in Built Robotics, a startup by a former Google engineer and son of a construction worker.
“The idea behind Built Robotics is to use automation technology make construction safer, faster, and cheaper,” Noah Ready-Campbell said.
“The robots basically do the 80 percent of the work, which is more repetitive, more dangerous, more monotonous. And then the operator does the more skilled work, where you really need a lot of finesse and experience.”
Video by Built Robotics
Soon, construction managers will also have little tasks to do as machines that analyze and report on site activities are being developed. Like Doxel, a roving robot that monitors construction projects in terms of schedule and costs. Its primary purpose is to track progress and identify potential problems before they arise.
As time goes by, more and more robots will find their way in the construction industry – ultimately for the better.