Robotics’ impact on construction industry

Robots are being used more for certain applications to improve overall worker safety and handle some repetitive tasks in an industry that is known for a lack of automation.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) April 19, 2018

The construction industry is one of the least automated industries that feature manual-intensive labor as a primary source of productivity. Whether it’s new commercial construction, renovation or demolition, robots don’t yet play a significant role in any step of a building’s lifecycle.

There are several new robots under development and in the early stages of deployment that could change this, however. As a highly unautomated industry, construction is poised for a robot revolution.

It may seem odd the construction industry utilizes so few robots, but there’s a good reason for this: construction tasks are difficult to automate. The construction worksite is the primary obstacle to robotic automation.

Robots excel at repetitive tasks in a controlled environment. Construction sites are the exact opposite. Robots need to be able to adapt to real-time variability in their environment with little to no reprogramming in order to be profitable and productive. This is difficult for robots to do, but a few different construction robots are taking on these historically challenging tasks.

Types of construction robots

There are a few different types of construction robots that are poised to break into the construction market at a mass scale. First is a 3-D printing robot that can build large buildings on demand. A mobile robotic arm controls a 3-D printer, and with a set of preprogrammed instructions, this system 3-D prints an entire structurally-safe building.

This technology is also beginning to be used for building bridges, with the first ever 3-D printed bridge recently being built in the Netherlands. This combination of 3-D printing and industrial robots is some of the most promising automation technology in the construction industry.

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 can improve the speed and quality of construction work.

Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaDemolition robots are another type of construction robot that have a great deal of potential. While they’re slower than demolition crews, they’re far safer and cheaper when it comes to demolishing concrete and structural components of a building at the end of its lifecycle.

There are several other types of construction robots, such as remote controlled or autonomous vehicles, but the few mentioned above are the most prepared to function in a current construction site and may be the most impactful.

As a highly unautomated 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 will grow.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online BlogRobotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.