Traditionally, construction works of the large building were performed by human labor in an uncomfortable working condition for a long duration. This would take months to complete, but the new developments in automation and other technologies have changed the facets of conventional building sites with traditional building systems.
At present, construction demands more precise, faster, and cost-effective methods to build increasingly elaborate designs. To cope with varying needs and requirements of the construction, it requires computer-assisted planning, engineering, and a flexible automation process. There is where robots come in.
Robots come in different types and sizes. Not robots are suitable for construction. It requires robots capable of performing heavy-duty tasks autonomously in a harsh and unfavorable environment without involving a large number of human resources. This post will explore some of the different types of robots used to accomplish specific construction tasks.
1. Demolition robots
Demolition is an integral part of a construction process, especially for any renovation site. Using robots for demolishing large structures and buildings can accelerate the demolition process, improve efficiency, and save both money and time. It allows the operator to operate by staying at a safe distance from the contaminants, debris, and crushing concrete, making it a safer option for human workers. Robots make it easy to break down walls, collect debris, and crush the concrete in confined places.
2. Bricklaying robots
Bricklaying is the most monotonous and tedious task in the construction process. The monotonous nature of the task increases the possibility of error. The bricklaying robots, however, enable us to execute such monotonous tasks efficiently.
Notably, the first bricklaying robot, named “Motor Mason,” was patented in 1904. It resembled the bricklaying robot SAM (Semi-Automated Mason), developed by Construction Robotics in association with National Science Foundation in the United States. The “Motor mason” required three people for operating. It was considered as five to 10 times faster than humans were.
Most of the bricklaying robots utilize arms of industrial robots to assemble the masonry structure of the building, while other human-operated robot mixes bonding agent or cement. The major benefit is efficiency and reduced construction time. The only downside to this technology is the installation cost, and the robots are suitable only for large construction projects with tight deadlines. Notably, SAM is capable of laying 3000 bricks in an an-eight-hours shift.
3. Welding robots
Manual welding is limited to shorter periods because of the required setup time, operator discomfort, safety considerations, and cost. Thus, robotic welding is critical to construction for high-quality welds in shorter cycle times. Robots remove most of the deficiencies attributed to the human factor, leading to better productivity, quality, and cost-efficiency. They can perform precise welding and maneuver easily in difficult locations.
Despite the advantages, welding robots present a few concerns. They are expensive to purchase, which means that an average business cannot afford one. They require trained personnel to man and program and can often break down or need repair. They are also limited to only a few welding types, and many of these take longer to cool or can even weaken metal if not used properly.
The exoskeleton is another emerging robotics technology used in construction. This mechanical suit can exponentially increase the strength, speed, and agility of an average worker. It allows any worker to lift and carry heavier objects than an average person. Here are a few examples of exosuit being used in construction:
- The Mounted Arm Exosuit: These tool-holding suits are made of a spring-loaded arm capable of holding heavyweight. They help the worker use heavy tools with ease and help complete the job faster with lesser fatigue.
- Back Support Exosuit: This suite supports the worker’s back while they bend down and lift heavy weights repetitively. It ensures the weights are handled in the right posture to avoid back injuries. They reduce the stress applied on the back muscle while performing such repetitive lifting tasks.
- Arm Support Limb: This suit helps workers lift heavy tools by supporting the shoulder and arm. It neutralizes the strain and stress above the waist level while working with heavy tools for a long duration.
- Crouching and Standing Support: These lightweight chairs assist the user in crouching or standing in a constant position for a longer time. They support the user in the same way as a chair does.
- Whole-Body Suits: This kind of suit supports the entire body posture and provides extra strength.
The downside of this technology is the bulkiness, and most of them lack speed and agility. Due to the use of electric motors and heavy materials, exoskeletons are usually expensive, cumbersome, heavy, and uncomfortable to wear for a long period.
5. 3D printing & contour crafting
3D technology has been around for the last few decades, transforming the manufacturing industry by its vast usage from rapid prototyping to full scale working automobiles. It has been introduced to the construction industry in recent times, with a vast number of applications, starting from building a block of apartments in a week to building homes in a day.
This technology can change the fundamental process of construction since it can accelerate production and reduce waste materials. A task that would take months to complete by the traditional construction process can be done is a day or two with 3D technology. It can build a wide variety of objects if the necessary specifications are provided to the printer. It also reduces costs and increases efficiency.
Contour crafting is a layered fabrication technology that has great potential in automated construction. It can build a single house or even a whole estate of houses in a single run, while still being possible for each to have a different design. Due to its speed and ability to use in-situ materials, contour crafting has potential in two areas: (1) low-income housing or emergency sheltered housing; and (2) architectural buildings involving complex shapes that would be expensive to build using traditional methods.
This is another technology that has emerged in construction recently. Drones are actually unmanned robots controlled remotely by operators to accomplish various complicated tasks, including contour construction, 3D map creation, 3D scanning, transportation, surveying, aerial monitoring, volumetric measurements, etc.
Drones improve communication between construction participants, improves site safety, and save project time and costs. They can create real-time aerial images from the building objects and reveal assets and challenges presented by the terrain.
The recent technological progress in the design and navigation of low-weight and autonomous drones has resulted in a more practical and cost-effective operation in architectural engineering and construction management and monitoring. Drones can significantly reduce the effort required in traditional construction monitoring and reporting procedures. They can provide convenient and smart ways of site supervision and management and result in better operations, planning, and effective on-site adjustments.