Technology hasn’t always gone hand-in-hand with the construction industry. The labor required to build, renovate, and repair isn’t exactly easy to duplicate in the digital space. In fact, a McKinsey Report indicated that the construction industry was one of the slowest to grow in productivity and digitization from 2005-2015.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that robots really became a viable possibility for construction. Since then, we’ve seen amazing advances in the potential use of robotics in high-risk industries. However, there’s still a long way to go before we see integral parts of projects completely automated. Keep reading to learn more about how robots could change the construction industry.
Robotics have overcome many construction barriers.
While many advances have been made, we aren’t exactly poised to see android tradies and self-driving front loaders any time soon. Robots are notorious for performing well in highly-controlled environments- which worksites aren’t.
The challenge of automation is to teach technology to respond appropriately in unpredictable situations. The construction industry is dangerous. The risks associated with worksites require quick thinking and perfectly calibrated responses. A robot can perform repetitive tasks, but just isn’t as efficient in evolving scenarios.
Although robotics is still behind in the world of construction, new technological advances are creating a platform for future integration. These are primarily centered on tasks that require repetitive actions and limited activity.
Artificial intelligence is required to create the kind of thinking robots capable of reacting to the uncertainty of the worksite. However, this level of tech isn’t available on a wide scale and isn’t cost-effective for many contractors. No one wants to invest millions of dollars in a robot that gets damaged the first day on the job.
So, the problem lies in developing a robot that’s capable of making complex decisions in a fraction of a second—and durable enough to survive worksite wear and tear. With a growing shortage of construction workers, there’s never been a better time for robots to break into the industry. Read on to learn about some of the robotics and automation solutions being developed right now.
The different types of construction robots.
As we said earlier, the first robots to be used in construction work on a wide scale will be ones designed to automate repetitive and monotonous tasks. The less thinking the machine has to do, the easier it is to develop a usable program. There are several promising prototypes, including:
One of the easier tasks to automate is brick laying. Construction Robotics’ SAM100 (SAM stands for semi-automated mason) is designed to perform simple masonry tasks. It can do so at a speed that’s several times faster than that of a human. Repetitive tasks may seem like an easy job to fill on a construction site. However, there’s a huge shortage of skilled workers, and not every project can spare people to spend time laying bricks.
It’s also a relatively labor-intensive task. People get tired, need breaks, and can suffer injuries from overexertion. A robotic arm can continue to lay bricks and never require more than an occasional stop for maintenance.
Robots designed for heavy lifting
It’s easy to equate this to heavy equipment, but robots that can handle lifting and moving in smaller areas are a huge asset. These types of machines are referred to as collaborative robots because they work alongside their human counterparts.
Again, Construction Robotics has developed a model called MULE that can attach to heavy objects and make moving them into position much easier than other methods. This allows humans to guide the heavy materials, reducing the potential for damage that occurs at multi-stage movement.
Drones have become a huge player in the world of safety. They can accurately scope out an area before first responders or other professionals go in, and they’re being designed to mitigate the risks in construction as well.
While drones are controlled remotely, they still qualify as a type of robot because of the nature of their technology. They can be used to survey a construction site, measure progress, and even carry supplies within reason. There are incredible possibilities for drone technology, but we still have a long way to go towards developing all of them.
3D printing has come a long way from the novel printers we started with. Robots with 3D printing capabilities are now being used to create everything from custom construction equipment to entire buildings.
This type of robotics is bringing new resources directly to the worksite and making it easier for contractors and workers to gain quick access to what they need.
No, this isn’t exactly the demolition nightmare from iRobot, but these robots have a definite place in the construction industry. Tearing down a building is both dangerous and unpredictable. Being able to use technology that can automate and withstand the process is a great way to create a safer and more efficient worksite.
Demolition robots are still far from ready to take over that construction niche, but we can expect to see them taking part in the industry within the next decade.
We still have a long way to go.
It’s nice to imagine robots being available to fill in the missing manpower and taking part in creating a safer worksite. However, we still have a long way to go before they can completely automate any part of the construction industry.
Artificial intelligence coupled with collaborative robotics is on track to create machines that mitigate risk and make construction a safer industry all around. In the meantime, SafetyTek is using some of the most advanced software available to keep employees safe. Contact us today for more information, and share your high-tech encounters with us on social media!