Automation in Construction. The Robots are coming, but is that a bad thing?

The construction industry is one of the words oldest and for that reason it can be slow to adapt. However, with ‘industrial revolution’ scale changes set to hit the industry in the years to come we might see a far quicker evolution than ever before.

Automation is a familiar concept and has already been used in other industries to speed up processes and lower costs. New technology coming into force has allowed the construction industry to lead the way in terms of robots and automation.

The widening skills gap in construction is a major issue which needs to be addressed by the entire industry as a whole.  One way that this is being done is through the automation of more repetitive tasks through the use of robots and new technology.

Automating the Less than Exciting

  • SAM (Semi-Automated Mason)
    Essentially a robotic arm which lays bricks. It’s capable of laying around 3,000 bricks in an eight hour shift using a specialist robotic arm/conveyer belt. SAM has already been put to use on several sites in the US and rather than fearing job losses, workers have welcomed SAM and the opportunity to automate the more mundane and less interesting tasks.
    “There are lots of things that SAM isn’t capable of doing that you need skilled bricklayers to do. We support anything that supports the masonry industry. We don’t stand in the way of technology.”
    Brian Kennedy of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (USA)

         
        National Science Foundation Video

  • Self-Operating Construction Vehicles (Backhoes, excavators etc.)
    Built Robotics is a start-up in the US. The company was founded by Noah Ready-Cambell an ex-google engineer and son of a construction worker.
    “The idea behind Built Robotics is to use automation technology to make construction safer, faster, and cheaper. The robots basically do the 80 percent of the work, which is more repetitive, more dangerous, and more monotonous. And then the operator does the more skilled work, where you really need a lot of finesse and experience.”
    Noah Ready-Cambell owner Build Robotics

         
        Video from Built Robotics

  • Doxel (Quality inspection Robot)
    A roving robot able to monitor the progress of a construction project and ensure it’s proceeding to schedule. Doxel tracks and analyses activity in often chaotic job sites, allowing it to track progress and highlight potential problems before they arise. This has the added bonus of making it easier to keep complex projects under budget.

        
        Video from IEEE Spectrum