Jobsites Leap Into the Future With Robotic Innovations

ConstructionToday Image1By Jeremy S. Cook

Manufacturing has seen a huge advancement in automation over the past few decades, but in the construction industry, where every jobsite is different, automation has been slow to catch on. At most building sites, new technology comes in the form of upgraded pneumatic nailers and increasingly portable table saws and routers.

Although humans and traditional tools will be required at jobsites for the foreseeable future, new robotic systems are beginning to appear to assist human operators. These devices increase productivity by boosting manpower, handling repetitive tasks and reducing the amount of time spent on manual labor. Here are three examples of robots that may become more common at jobsites in the future.

Bricklaying Robots

Construction Robotics was founded in 2007 with the goal of using robotic tools to advance construction. Their robot, known as SAM100, is already laying bricks at several real-world locations. The device uses an industrial-style robotic arm to apply mortar to each brick, along with an automated alignment system to place them. Although humans are still required to keep it running, the device increases masons’ productivity by three to five times, and reduces the need for human brick lifting by 80 percent.

3-D-Printed Construction

Automated bricklaying saves an enormous amount of time, but why not eliminate single bricks altogether, opting instead for custom concrete designs? That’s the idea behind Apis Cor’s concrete 3-D printer. The robotic device sits inside a future building’s location and precisely positions layers of concrete to build up the walls. The machine has been used to 3-D-print walls for a 400-square-foot house in 24 hours, providing substantial cost savings over traditional construction methods.

Autonomous Surveying and Excavation

Drones are revolutionizing many industries, and construction is no exception. The Skycatch system can help workers map a site to within five centimeters of accuracy, producing survey data in two hours that would take two people a full week to complete. Construction managers can use this data to control automated construction equipment with Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control technology. With this system, machinery moves along preprogrammed routes, while workers take manual control only if necessary.

Technological Improvements in Traditional Tools

Just as jobsites are being transformed, today’s consumer tools are beginning to incorporate sensors and microcomputers, automating small tasks at the user level that improve both safety and productivity. The newest table saws include sensors that can tell when skin is near blades, automatically turning the machine off to help avoid injuries. Advanced laser alignment and lighting systems can make saw cuts and drill press holes more accurate.  Likewise, desktop 3-D printers can help you make specialized items, repair broken tools and produce 3-D re-creations not available in stores. Even infrared cameras, used to determine where energy is escaping from a house, are now available at most home improvement stores.

When it comes to robotic advancements and automated tools, it’s an exciting time for the construction industry and serious DIYers. While robots won’t replace traditional drills, saws,and air tools, they can already help people be more efficient.

Jeremy S. Cook has a BSME from Clemson University. When he’s not reporting on power tool innovations for The Home Depot, he is an avid maker and experimenter, working on everything from robotics to woodworking to photography projects and more. Click here to see Home Depot’s selection of power tools and accessories.

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