The next frontier- Robots working in squads
For the last few years, momentum has been building behind the idea of integrating robotic technologies far more deeply in the construction process, both as a solution to the skills shortage issue and as a stimulant to flagging productivity on sites. Industrial robots have found a prominent role in automotive manufacturing and a range of other industries, according to the International Federation of Robotics; there are more than two million robotic units in production at factories worldwide.
While there may be some attrition in the future, the most likely scenario is that robots will be used alongside human workers to augment their work, keep them safer and boost productivity. The current capabilities of existing robot combined with a growing labour shortage will probably lead to robots handling some of the more menial repetitive tasks, leaving the human worker to focus on other aspects of their job.
As robotic machine learning and mobility capabilities improve, robots are increasingly being seen as a new frontier in on-site productivity, and are now being supported by government policy in many countries. Japan is a prominent example, having launched the ‘I-Construction’ initiative, to increase the use of robotics and digital technologies to improve productivity and address the industry’s labour crisis.
Different types of construction robots are poised to break into the construction market at a mass scale. First is a 3D-printing robot that can build large buildings on demand. A mobile robotic arm controls a 3D-printer, and with a set of pre-programmed instructions, this system 3D prints an entire structurally-safe building. This technology is also beginning to be used for building bridges, with the first ever 3D printed bridge recently being built in the Netherlands.
There are also construction robots for brick-laying and masonry, and even robots that lay an entire street at one time. These types of robots dramatically improve the speed and quality of construction work. Demolition robots are another type of construction robot that is about to break into mainstream applications. While they are slower than demolition crews, they are far safer and cheaper when it comes to demolishing concrete and structural components of a building at the end of its lifecycle.
As new technologies are developed or transferred in response to opportunities or problems in construction, they will help the AEC industry to effectively meet the global demand for new buildings over the coming decades, and to do so in a sustainable fashion. Robotics is on to a promising start—and many more opportunities lie ahead. This is an exciting time to be in the construction industry.
The more the technology companies can collaborate on development and innovation with actual construction teams and end users, the sooner the industry will be able to enjoy the full promise of what construction robotics can offer. As a highly automated industry, construction robots will have a major impact on the construction industry. As construction companies look to automate more and more tasks for the sake of efficiency and productivity, demand for construction robots is growing steadily.