Although it started out as one of the least automated industries, the scope of construction automation is widening, involving all stages of the process: production of materials, prefabrication of components, on-site installation, operation and maintenance of buildings, and demolition and recycling of structures. That’s because automation solves problems.
Robotic tools address a number of issues that have been weighing down the industry. Those include project quality, skilled labor shortages, weather-related slow-downs, labor safety, shortened construction schedules, and tighter budgets.
When companies employ robotics, work is more predictable, schedules can be compressed, heavy and dangerous jobs can be performed by machines, and quality can be improved. And it follows that a project budget would benefit from these improvements.
Robotic tools are already being used for:
- Automated manufacture of construction components, including steel panels, precast concrete, glass, aluminum, and wood products and frames.
- Earthmoving, site security, infrastructure construction, and tunneling with earthworm-like robots.
- Prefabrication of masonry elements, welding, concrete finishing, and onsite masonry and timber installations.
Because robotic machines are able to monitor vibrations, wind, weather, and other environmental factors, they facilitate a more consistent, precise and faster building process. Videos of automated bricklaying machines at work have been widely circulated, and their accuracy, through the use of laser guides, has been touted at nearly 100%.
Autonomous vehicles using GPS and LiDAR – for instance bulldozers, skid-steers, excavators, and load carriers – can augment labor on jobsites. Filling one of the most dangerous jobs in construction are demolition robots, which comprise as much as 90% of the current construction robotics market.
There are also robotic units that can be controlled remotely to motor around a construction site (outdoors or indoors), gather data to measure whether progress is on track, or even spot potential installation errors and other problems. In addition to producing 3D site maps, the data can be added to the project’s BIM model for a more robust representation of the project in the final as-built.
Geofencing, a virtual perimeter setup using GPS or RFID (radio frequency identification), can be created around the footprint of a project site to keep machinery from straying outside project boundaries.
Although estimates vary, it is generally predicted that the construction robotics market is poised to grow between ten and fifteen percent per year over the next five years, especially as the number of vendors increases. Globe Newswire attributes this to a focus on reducing resources and waste of building materials during construction, which has been estimated to be as high as 30%.
What robotic tools can mean for your company:
- If you’re suffering from a skilled labor shortage, automation can help alleviate that challenge.
- There are automation solutions you can use now, like drones and data collectors, that won’t demolish your budget.
- Robotic machines are a good way to harness repetition or manage things that happen unexpectedly.
If/when your company decides to employ robotic tools on your jobs, your work can become more predictable, schedules can be compressed, heavy and dangerous jobs can be turned over to machines, and overall project quality can be improved.
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