5 Things Construction Managers Should Know About Construction Robotics

Construction and robots. What's cooler?

But do they dream of electric sheep?
Construction robotics are the future. Westend61 // Getty Images

The future isn't just coming – it's happening right now. Every industry is seeing it, including construction. More and more construction companies are adopting the use of robotics to get work done faster, cheaper, and with greater precision worldwide.

An outgrowth of that adoption has been an accelerated development of new technologies aimed at automating and improving even more processes over time, taking robotics out of the simulator and placing it in the middle of real-world projects.

Here are five things you need to know about construction robotics and how the concept is affecting your industry.

Robotics and Automation

All over the world, companies are dumping money into creating machines to automate construction processes. Some impressive machines are at work right now completing tasks like brick-laying and creating facades. Both commercial and residential building projects are using robots to automate these processes.

The benefits of automation cannot be ignored. Among the many benefits that robotics bring to the table are:

  • Reductions in construction costs
  • Increased building speed
  • Reduced financing costs
  • Increased jobsite safety and efficiency
  • Lower insurance rates and fewer liabilities
  • A considerable increase in sustainability

There is such a race going on right now to automate more of the design-build process that the technology is advancing faster than anyone could have anticipated.

Like we said, the future is now. If there are parts of your business that you think could benefit from automation but don't think the solution exists, look to robotics. Chances are it either exists or is in development right now.

3-D Printing Is Gaining in Popularity

Construction companies have already been considering 3-D printing for several years and are actively seeking out ways to employ it on a large scale.

Quite possibly the most ambitious of these endeavors is currently underway in Dubai. The technology exists, and it makes sense to use it.

3-D printing is already being rolled out for smaller projects on a massive scale. While some argue that the technology is still too new to guarantee a sound structure like an office building, the developers in Dubai are hoping to prove their critics wrong.

Of course, different printers will need to be employed for different tasks, but this is true in traditional construction processes as well. Different contractors use different equipment to prepare different pieces for use in the overall project.

It is not outside the realm of reason to think that the same process can be applied to 3-D printing. This is definitely one area to give some serious attention.

Robotic Construction Utilizes Both Traditional and Ultra-Modern Technology

Yes, robots can be used for 3-D printing, but they also can be – and are being – used for completing more traditional tasks as well. They're also completing them in record time.

Traditional building processes are costly and time-consuming, but many companies are figuring out ways to cut costs by way of automation and the use of robotics.

Fastbrick Robotics is one such company. It has been working for nearly a decade to refine its brick-laying robotic technology and has been able to demonstrate great success.

Keep feeding bricks into the machine, and it will continuously place 1,000 bricks per hour based drawings made with CAD software. This means that one of these machines can lay the equivalent of a shell of a standard-sized suburban house within 2-3 days including plumbing and electrical channels as long as they are included in the CAD picture.

Robotics Can Speed up the Demolition Process

Some of the first fully actualized applications of robotics in construction are the ones used in demolition. Demolition robots have actually been in use for more than a decade already. The ability to speed up the process and control the robots remotely offers huge time and money-saving considerations that have proven beneficial to numerous construction companies.

Demolition robots handle many of the parts of the demolition process, including many one might not even expect. They not only break down walls and crush concrete, they even complete more difficult tasks, like cutting through rebar.

You Can Thank Termites for Some Current Trends in Robotic Construction

Inspired by the behaviors of termites in Namibia, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has developed a robotic building system based on the collective intelligence and resiliency of termites. It allows engineers to program robots to individually complete autonomous tasks that are part of a greater whole.

The system eliminates the need for a supervisor and can be programmed to complete virtually any task (it doesn't quite beat construction management software, but we can't all be perfect). Still in its testing stages, these robots have been able to build small-scale structures with amazing precision. Many within the industry believe that this is the innovation that is going to drive the vast majority of the advances in construction robotics over the coming years.