Ways Robotics Are Revolutionizing Construction Sites
Robots are rapidly changing operations in numerous industries — from agriculture to medicine. The construction sector is also investing in them, and that trend seems set to continue.
A report from MarketsandMarkets expects the construction robots market to reach $166.4 million by 2023. That change would represent a 16.8% compound annual growth rate from 2018 to 2023.
Here’s a look at some of the different types of construction robots and why companies find them so beneficial.
Monitoring Site Progress
Having accurate, up-to-date information about a project’s progression makes it easier for company leaders to set the correct expectations for their clients. Some businesses use automated technologies such as drones to gather and transmit data. These can work well in many cases, but wheeled robots offer additional possibilities.
A partnership between Boston Dynamics and Trimble involves using a dog-like robot named Spot to handle tasks such as site surveying, scanning, and progress updates. People involved with the effort say bringing a repeatable process to data capture gives project managers real-time updates.
Pilot projects tested Spot at construction sites with challenging conditions, including solar farms. When robots take over repetitive monitoring responsibilities, humans have more time to devote to more creative and rewarding duties.
Building and Repairing Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a common sight around the world. These temporary structures provide support during ongoing construction or renovation work. However, depending on the scaffolding type used, assembling it could take from hours to days.
People also lose time if they need to repair the scaffolding due to severe weather or other issues. Scaffolding assembly and repair may soon look a lot different thanks to an effort from the European Union’s HEPHAESTUS project.
The project aims to facilitate advanced construction robots through research and trials. One recent innovation was a scaffolding robot that can lift up to one ton and move in all directions with the help of cables. Experts working on the project reported that choosing the correct cable tension is one of the biggest challenges. However, they can customize the length based on the size of the scaffolding.
Processing Construction and Demolition Waste
Construction teams often demolish existing structures before new work can start. Demolition brings inherent dangers to humans, which is why people are so interested in using automated machines for the jobs. Some advanced demolition robots can handle entire sites and even address hard-to-reach areas.
Once robots assist with site demolition, other models can process the resulting waste, preparing it for recycling. Some European plants that accept construction and demolition materials process from tens to hundreds of tons per hour while using high-tech robots programmed for specific tasks.
These advanced construction robotics applications either pick out and sort the desired materials for reuse or focus on grabbing the impurities, leaving the valuable contents behind. People can then take what’s left and discard it or begin the recycling process at a different area of the same facility.
These types of construction robots are available at an ideal time, especially since many individuals are increasingly concerned about sustainability.
Reducing Project Timelines
Companies invest in construction robots for numerous reasons, but one of the main ones is to get projects done faster. If businesses repeatedly finish projects on time and with few complications, they’ll remain competitive.
However, there’s an ongoing trend of construction workers retiring without sufficient numbers of younger, thoroughly trained people to replace them. Robots could help organizations stay productive, even with smaller workforces and limited talent pipelines.
In Japan, a contractor plans to build a 334-meter-wide dam almost entirely with robots. This approach has only increased productivity by about 10% so far. It also still requires human involvement, particularly for supervision. However, representatives hope to eventually cut the overall building time by 30%.
In another example, a newer version of a previously released bricklaying robot built a house in less than three days. The achievement included three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Plus, a civil and structural engineering consultancy set building standards that the robot’s creation met.
People in today’s fast-paced world continually look for safe and feasible ways to finish projects quickly. The types of construction robots discussed here show what’s possible.
Relieving Construction Teams of Strenuous Work
Construction work is labor-intensive, but some team members face particularly taxing duties. For example, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) contractors are especially likely to handle overhead drilling tasks that can quickly become fatiguing. When people get tired, the likelihood of accidents goes up.
An invention called Jaibot takes care of drilling holes, leaving users to operate it with a remote control. The robot goes to the correct location, creates the holes, then marks them appropriately. Construction teams can then take care of the next steps.
While developing the robot, people researched which routine tasks on construction sites are most stressful. They concluded that overhead duties fit that description and proceeded with the project. However, this example may pave the way for companies to build and test robots that handle other tiring tasks, too.
Detecting and Preventing Potholes
Potholes do more than cause unexpected travel bumps. An unprepared driver could hit them while moving too fast, then lose control of their vehicle. Potholes also damage tires and affect a car’s shocks and alignment. Once people learn where potholes are, they try to avoid them. However, the best solution is to fix them.
Robotiz3d Ltd., a new company spun out from the University of Liverpool, has a solution that uses robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to find potholes and stop new ones from forming. Besides locating road defects and categorizing them according to severity, the technology can also fill in small cracks autonomously.
Such proactive measures could stop potholes from causing problems. They form due to a combination of water seeping into surface cracks and traffic associated with those damaged areas. A phenomenon called crocodile cracking results in small pavement separations that indicate distressed areas. If construction robots address them quickly, potholes should become less prevalent.
Helping Workers Embrace New Opportunities
The examples mentioned here highlight why people are so interested in how advanced construction robots could substantially improve the sector. However, some individuals worry these machines might take over their jobs or even hurt them. Offering specialized training to help people recognize how robots can improve their jobs may alter their perspectives.
A project at the University of Southern California uses virtual reality learning modules to teach construction workers to collaborate with robots safely. Researchers hope this approach will show workers how the machines can supplement their tasks and help them build trust in the technology.
The initiative is in the early stages. However, those involved will soon examine whether virtual learning offers comparable results to in-person, hands-on training with robots. This use of virtual reality could attract younger people to the construction sector, too, making them excited to work with robots.
Advanced Construction Robotics Will Continue Gaining Ground
There’s an ongoing need for construction projects that are finished on time, safely, and within tolerances and specifications. Construction robots can meet these aims and others, making them well worth the investment for companies that want to stay competitive, nimble, and successful.
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