The implementation of Industry 4.0 has resulted in the utilization of various technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent robotics, automated fabrication, automated inspection, Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics, and cloud computing in all major industries. The construction industry is rapidly adopting these technologies, with automated processing and robotics being the top-most priority.
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In 2021, the construction business contributed $958.8 billion to the GDP of the United States, making it one of the most significant manufacturing industries in North America. This article examines the status of automated processing systems and the implementation of robotics in the construction sector.
A Brief Overview of Robotics in Construction
In the construction sector, robotics has been recognized as an exciting innovation with the ability to increase efficiency and occupational safety. A swiftly expanding body of research on robotics in construction (RiC) has generated recommendations on autonomous construction machinery.
Owing to the distinctive features of the construction process, such as a tightly controlled operational setting and a reduced degree of standardization, the adoption of automation in the construction industry faces numerous obstacles. Today, RiC has evolved into a highly interdisciplinary scientific discipline that combines robotics with numerous pressing technologies, such as additive manufacturing, building information modeling (BIM), and machine learning.
How Robotics is Revolutionizing On-Site Construction Tasks
Researchers have thoroughly described the use of robotics in the construction industry via their research paper published in Automation in Construction. Numerous researchers are attempting to replace hazardous and monotonous on-site tasks, such as laying bricks, examination, and cleansing, with robotic technologies.
Monitoring the structural integrity of facilities, such as bridges, is an essential duty; but it is challenging and time-consuming for employees. Recent years have seen the widespread adoption of robotics for structural inspection. Recently developed robotic technologies include a specialized unmanned vehicle and two underwater robots for investigating rollover pass bridges.
Utilizing robotics for the cleansing of high-rise buildings has been seen as a method to increase the safety of the operation process. A transportable automated robot for cleansing the windows of high-rise structures and a wall-cleaning machine with dry and semi-dry wall-cleaning devices have been manufactured.
These studies demonstrate that robotic technologies have matured to the point where they can be utilized in construction tasks on-site.
Human Robotic and Multi-Robotic Collaboration
Human-robotic collaboration (HRC) systems are viewed as a method for minimizing or preventing harm to human beings by enabling individuals to perform duties remotely off-site while commanding robots on-site.
In 2017, an intelligent observation system that allowed employees to remotely manage a teleoperated excavator was developed. According to the results of the field testing experiment, the suggested approach decreased operational time for digging by 12.5% and for leveling by 14% while also enhancing usefulness and ergonomics by 21%.
Several sophisticated construction repair and inspection duties necessitate the collaboration of robots with diverse qualities. A system of multiple robots for tunnel inspection has been developed. Four robots make up the system: an investigation robot, a transfer robot, and two relay robots.
Transmission features are essential for multi-robot systems to conduct successful ecological surveillance and exploratory duties. In certain multi-robot systems, researchers have designed data maps for maximizing the measurement approach among various robots.
What is the Automated Construction Specification Review Process?
Reviewing construction specifications is essential to the success of a construction project. A construction specification details every construction prerequisite that the contractor must meet for the project. Although the construction specification is drafted primarily based on national guidelines, several provisions contain errors, such as standards that are unsuitable for site conditions. It is vital to rectify the mistakes in the construction specification.
An article published in Advanced Engineering Informatics states that professionals desire an automated method to facilitate the review of construction specifications. This research addresses the issue of syntactic inconsistencies between documents, which affects the automated evaluation of construction specifications in the field. The objective of this study was to develop an automated system for evaluating construction specifications with adequate industrial utility by examining the diverse semantic characteristics via NLP.
The NER model was devised to enable the computer to comprehend text regardless of sentence structure. NER is a text-mining method that identifies relevant keywords within the text. The authors also created a provision-pairing model to help the computer comprehend the text regardless of how the provisions are organized. Finally, the UI and UX of the web-based prototype were designed for industry practitioners' convenience.
The new model resulted in a 22.3% reduction in time from other existing models, while an improvement in accuracy of about 24.2% was obtained. This automated model can be applied to other industries with a few system tweaks and is a game changer for the construction industry.
What is Automated Additive Construction?
Extrusion-based and powder-based techniques have been identified as the most viable procedures for facilitating the use of AM methods in large-scale construction, such as the construction of walls, structures, and bridges under digital computer control. Due to the automated aspect of the AM procedure, the incorporation of AM in construction not only results in fewer mistakes, diminishing waste materials, and a decrease in pertinent costs but also permits the development of sustainable structures with functional materials.
Future Directions of Automated Additive Construction
As per a recent article published in Sustainability, several important tasks are to be performed for rapid exposure to automated construction methods, especially automated AM techniques.
Along with improvements to the hardware engineering and manufacturing processes for automated construction, it is essential to develop standardized control software and conventions for the effective manufacturing of large-scale structures with adequate durability using a solitary or multi-robotic solution.
Owing to its extensive utilization, the establishment of a theoretical and algorithmic structure for energy-efficient collision-free procedure planning of multi-robot autonomous additive construction channels, including optimal part differentiation, mission allocation, organizing, trajectory estimation, and repositioning, has become a necessity.
How Will the Digital Modifications Affect the Construction Industry Workforce?
An article published in the International Journal of Construction Management focuses on the implications of adaptation of industry 4.0 technologies such as robotics and automated operations for the construction sector.
The automation and digitalization of the construction industry, through the incorporation of digital fabrication (dfab) methods and novel technologies, offers the possibility of resolving long-standing issues. It is anticipated to disrupt employment, but the precise effects on the labor force are not yet known. It affects the preparation and implementation stages in particular. Consequently, it is anticipated that existing construction roles will evolve and that new roles will be created. Eventually, current fragmented projects will be replaced by project-based integrations (enabled by digitalization).
In short, robotics and automation will provide many benefits to the construction industry and its workers in the future.
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References and Further Reading
Moon, S. et. al. (2022). Automated system for construction specification review using natural language processing. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 51, 101495. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aei.2021.101495
Khosravani MR, Haghighi A. (2022). Large-Scale Automated Additive Construction: Overview, Robotic Solutions, Sustainability, and Future Prospect. Sustainability. 14(15):9782. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su14159782
García de Soto, B. et. al. (2019). Implications of Construction 4.0 to the workforce and organizational structures, International Journal of Construction Management. 22(2), 205-217. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/15623599.2019.1616414
Xiao, B., Chen, C., & Yin, X. (2022). Recent advancements of robotics in construction. Automation in Construction, 144, 104591. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2022.104591
Impact. 2022. 5 Benefits of Automation in Construction. [Online]
Available at: https://www.impactmybiz.com/blog/automation-in-construction-benefits/