The development of state-of-the-art robotics has revolutionized the construction industry. As the world population continues to grow and previously rural areas transition to become more populated urban centers, researchers believe that robotics will play a pivotal role in building the cities of the future.
Advantages of Construction Robots
It is currently estimated that 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this number is expected to increase to an estimated 66% by the year 2050. As the world’s population continues to rise, an increase in demand for housing will inevitably follow, particularly within urban areas. Collective robotic construction (CRC) has emerged as a resolution to the rising housing demand, as well as a preventative measure against construction-related injuries. With more than 20% of all work-related deaths in the United States involving construction workers, the implementation of robotics in this industry is promising.
Researchers are optimistic that advancements in automated construction would also help in disaster relief efforts by building temporary shelters or containment structures at a much faster rate than human workers. Professionals in the construction industry also believe that these robots will play an important role in addressing the workforce shortage that has hit the industry in many countries around the world.
Making CRC a Reality
Before CRC can solve the world’s problems, there are several areas which require more research. For example, there is still a need to improve the robustness of algorithms used for the development of fully autonomous construction robots. Increasing the autonomy of robots to work both independently and together will allow these devices to detect the current status of the project, as well as what subsequent steps are required to build upon it on site.
In addition, advancements in sensor technology are still needed to improve the perception of robots. Robotic perception encompasses the ability of these devices to learn from sensory data to react and make appropriate decisions accordingly. Object and human detection, environment representation, scene understanding, activity recognition, semantic place classification and object modeling are all important aspects of robotic perception that still require a greater level of sensitivity prior to their complete replacement of traditional construction equipment.
A Pioneer in Construction Robots
New York company Construction Robotics has been dedicated to developing affordable and cutting-edge construction robotics since 2007. One of their newest robots is the Semi-Automated Mason (SAM) 100, which is a brick laying robot that has already seen tremendous success during the construction of the University of Michigan Brighton Health Center South, the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke, Virginia, as well as the Erlanger Medical Office Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The SAM100 is capable of laying up to 380 bricks per hour, which, at six times faster than a human bricklayer, provides a significant improvement in construction productivity while reducing lifting requirements by human workers by up to 80%.
The Material Unit Lift Enhancer (MULE) offered by Construction Robotics has also made a considerable amount of progress in the field of construction robotics. The MULE is a lift assist device that is designed to eliminate common labor challenges on the construction site. With the capabilities of lifting up to 135 pounds, MULE improves the ergonomics of the construction workforce by preventing fatigue and life-threatening injuries. Moreover, the MULE is equipped with several attachments to allow for the flexible handling and placement of critical construction materials, such as concrete blocks. One of the most recent applications of the MULE can be found by Berich Masonry, Inc. in Denver, Colorado.