The use of robots in the construction industry is not new. In Japan, construction firms were drawn to the technology in the 1970s and 80s. The industry was thriving and the need for more skilled workers arose. This leads to the creation of robots that can assist in excavating material and handling to rebar placement among other tasks.
However, this early progress didn’t prove to be strong enough to take over the construction industry. The early robots were made only for repetitive tasks. Whereas construction is something that brings in new challenges with every single project. And hence to automate at that time proved to be a notoriously difficult task.
But now the world of technology is making innovation happen in the construction industry. New advancements in machine learning, AI, sensors and digital technology are removing these barriers.
Robots are now entering the construction world with the ability to manage from easy to dangerous tasks. They are promising a revolutionary change by accomplishing projects way more faster and efficiently than humans.
In fact, as 5G penetrates across different smart cities, it is believed that multi-operational robots will rise in popularity. They will be able to collaborate on the same tasks at once.
As per a recent study, automation is predicted to take over construction tasks nearly by 49%. The technology could take over the roles of labourers, carpenters, plumber, operating engineers and electricians.
In November 2018, Chinese firm Archi-Union Architects employed a robot-assisted design and construction methods for a conference centre in Shanghai. The project was accomplished in a jaw-dropping 100 days.
A new report on construction robots shows that they are taking over the market with an annual growth rate of 16.8% between 2018 and 2023.
But in the midst, there are things that people are curious about? What kind of future do construction robots promise? Will they be able to manage an entire building process? What if they consume all the jobs with no work opportunity left for humans? Spot the answers in the context given ahead!
Construction Project Involving Human-Robot Partnership
Bluetech Park Properties, a real estate investment trust and KME Architects have announced plans for a new “Digital Infrastructure City” in Las Vegas.
The focus is on developing a digital, smart city-type urban space that will feature robot-assisted multifunction designs. These include “supertrees”, self-healing concrete structures etc, as per a report.
The robots used in the project will not be taking over human jobs. Instead, automated and digital technologies like aerial drones will assist the workers by working on dangerous or hard-to-reach portions of the project. Moreover, wearable technologies will help workers in heavy lifting and repetitive tasks.
It will be more of a human-robot collaboration which will increase productivity and efficiency. The new digital city will have offices, markets and affordable housing that will be powered by renewable energy.
The Futuristic Construction
Melike Altinisik Architects, a Turkish architecture studio promises a Robot Science Museum in Seoul that will stand out. The building will excel among the high-tech subway systems and skyscrapers in the smart city.
In terms of looks, it will have an egg-shaped facade, glass base and white metal cladding. Huge facade panels will be moulded, assembled, welded and polished by robots. Later, the panels will be run up by robotic arms. Additionally, a 3D printer will be deployed to build the concrete base. At the same time, drones overhead will map the site while performing crucial inspections.
As per Melike Altinisik, founder of the firm, robots will be involved in design, manufacturing, construction and services. Put differently, the Robot Science Museum will exhibit automated capabilities with its own construction done by robots.
This building expected to open in 2022 aims to spread public knowledge about robots. Its facade that will be fully constructed by robots will perhaps create a blueprint for futuristic robotic constructions.
2050 Innovation Paper Shows The Role Of Robots In Future Construction
British multinational infrastructure company Balfour Beatty published the 2050 Innovation Paper which concludes the role of robots in construction. According to the Paper, robots will work in teams to construct complex structures using dynamic new materials. While elements of a build will self-assemble, drone flying above will inspect the work, collect data. Interestingly, drones will use data, predict and solve problems even before they arise. Instructions on this will be directly sent to robotic cranes, diggers and automated builders with human engagement not required. Thus, it will lead to a human-free construction process.
While here we are talking about the on-site construction, the role of builders will shift to an “overseer” – managing projects remotely.
On the other hand, a different scenario comes in if human workers involve on-site. They will be using a robotically enhanced exoskeleton (explained ahead) and neural control technology to drive and control machinery and other robots on-site. Such advancements could ultimately end up addressing the dangers of construction. The report says it could make ‘Zero Harm’ a reality.
The future is about to approach with construction turning into a work of a few days from months or years of work. While development happens smart cities will also focus on promoting health, safety and productivity on-site.
Will Robots Be Able To Manage An Entire Building Process?
Experts believe they will! A group of researchers at MIT demonstrated the Digital Construction Platform (DCP). This is a self-driving printer that displays a scope of over 10 metres. The robot has shown its capabilities by engaging in a range of media and processes. These include excavation, additive fabrication, light printing and welded-chain construction.
Furthermore, it is able to create a system of scaffolds of a full-size structure. Precisely, 14.6 meters in diameter in less than 14 hours. Later, environmental sensors provide feedback enabling enhanced control. Going forward, research is continuing with the aim to improve system control with non-linear behaviours and developing a new interface to facilitate interaction.
The Future Iron Men of The Construction Industry
The robotics industry is coming up with something that sounds utterly sci-fi. Sarcos, an American robotics company unveiled an innovative full-body exoskeleton named ‘Guardian XO’ for construction workers. When workers wear this, they might feel it just like Tony Stark when he turns into Iron Man. Their strength amplification will be 20 to one and picking up a 100-pound slab will feel like five pounds.
Sarcos aims to make its robotic suit commercially available in 2020. The company is a US manufacturer that specialises in military and public safety devices.
As per Sarcos, the robotic exoskeleton will allow workers to carry up to 200 pounds without the need to take energy breaks. It took about two decades to design Guardian XO in order to reduce pressure on construction workers.
BIM+ reports that Guardian XO is created with an investment of $175 million. The suit can work continuously for eight hours on a single charge. It requires approximately 400 watts of power which is 90% less than typical humanoid robots. The weight of the suit and its carried load will be transferred via the exoskeleton structure to the ground.
In addition, the suit will be equipped with a group of sensors into the exoskeleton. These sensors will enable the operator to intuitively control the robot. It will be just like drawing in his/her own instincts and reflexes while reducing the need for human training, according to Sarcos.
The technology is anticipated to save billions while eliminating dangers and health problems for human workers. With this, were you able to spot your answers?