Robotics on a roll
Robotics on a roll
It was back in 1921 when the term “robot” was first coined by Czech playwright Karel Capek to describe an artificial person. It was not until 1961, however, that this term came to life in the form of Unimate*. This was the birth of something revolutionary – something that would make waves across industries. Today, it’s what we call robotics. Kat Sarmiento reports.
When many of us first think of robots, we picture grey machines endlessly doing repetitive tasks. While partially correct, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Robots are intelligent – or rather, “artificially” intelligent – machines. One of the biggest tech trends today involves artificial intelligence (AI), and it is used for various reasons – from analysing complex data sets to recommending the best restaurants around the corner.
One industry that has learned how to leverage the power of robots is the construction industry. An industry that builds all kinds of structures – from the tallest skyscrapers to the grandest homes – needs a helping hand. Fortunately, robots have quickly learned how to fill that role.
What are the benefits of robotics in the construction industry?
It comes as no surprise that robots have enabled the industry to grow and advance in leaps and bounds. This promising technology has played a huge role in the construction industry’s evolution to its current form, so let’s dive deeper into how these robots have revolutionised this vital sector.
Efficiency, accuracy, and precision
Technological advancements like robotics have allowed the construction industry to become more efficient. Robots work faster than humans and are not plagued by the human errors and biases that go with decision-making. For instance, manufacturing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems requires a high level of precision, where the slightest error can cause a system malfunction. Robotics and data-driven HVAC solutions minimise the potential for these errors.
Moreover, robots can work on construction projects 24/7, while humans pulling extra shifts bring with them the added cost of labour. Hence, robots also help reduce costs for construction projects.
To thrive in the construction industry, companies must learn how to put safety first. Especially in an industry that presents multiple potential hazards, safety is of the highest priority. Workers could fall from heights or incorrectly operate cranes, for example, leading to serious accidents. Not to mention, construction workers often work with repetitive actions that can cause injuries to their backs and joints. When robots work hand-in-hand with construction workers, these injuries are avoided – making the construction industry a safer industry in which to work.
What are the applications of robotics in the construction industry?
Now, let’s get into the specifics. We’re aware that robots have increased the efficiency of operations, thereby reducing the resources needed to complete construction projects. The risk of injury and death to construction workers has also been lowered thanks to their help. But how are these machines applied in the industry? Let’s explore the applications of robotics in the field of construction.
Demolition: In demolition work, a lot of things can go wrong. Being one of the most hazardous tasks in the industry, demolition is the cause of critical accidents brought about by manual handling. Thanks to the accuracy of robots in handling demolition work, the risk of accidents – and even death – are significantly reduced.
Bricklaying: With robotics came the birth of bricklaying machines. Bricklaying is a crucial job in the construction industry, as bricklayers are responsible for the walls around us. The job isn’t as simple as just laying bricks on top of each other. Just like in demolition work, a lot can also go wrong in bricklaying. Falls from heights are common, for example, and robots can help to reduce these occurrences.
SAM-100, the first bricklaying robot, revolutionised the construction industry because of its speed, effectively reducing the need for a masonry crew. Laying bricks up to six times faster than your average bricklayer, using the SAM-100 for bricklaying projects is a no-brainer. In total, that amounts to about 100 to 300 extra homes in a year!
Excavation: Digging doesn’t always mean that you have to get your hands dirty, especially when robots have recently learned how to excavate efficiently. This lessens your time digging down deep holes, thus reducing time and excavation costs.
3D Printing: The idea of printing building elements may sound obnoxious to some, but it’s the interesting reality we live in today. Should you need materials printed in polymer or concrete, a 3D-printing robot has got you covered. To make matters even better, these robots can also be programmed to print sustainable materials – perfect for any company that has made the switch to becoming a sustainable organisation.
Learning how to apply robotics is essential for everyone, whether or not you’re in the construction industry. But if you’re looking to expand your operations in the field of construction, you’ll certainly need some help from “intelligent” robots.
With the plentiful benefits robotic applications provide – such as increased efficiency, accuracy, precision, and safety – the construction industry is expected to thrive in the years to come. Let’s not forget the revolutionary ways in which robotics has already been applied to different tasks, ranging from demolition to 3D printing. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the construction industry has been changed forever … but the changes aren’t about to stop.
* Unimate was the first industrial robot ever built, according to Robots, the flagship publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – a global technical professional organisation that focuses on the advancement of technology. The publication notes: “It (Unimate) was a hydraulic manipulator arm that could perform repetitive tasks. It was used by car makers to automate metalworking and welding processes.”