Efficiency, productivity, and safety are top concerns on any job site and now, robotic technologies that have revolutionized the manufacturing industry are finally trending in construction as well.
Meet SAM100, the robotic bricklayer.
New York-based Construction Robotics, recently unveiled the first robotic bricklaying machine available to rent, lease, or buy. The boxy, silver SAM100 can lay over 3000 bricks a day, three times more than the best of its human counterparts. Founded by entrepreneur and inventor Scott Peters and architect and senior executive for Hueber-Breuer Construction Company, Nate Podkaminer, Construction Robotics is on a mission to create affordable robotic automation solutions for the construction industry.
Using sensing technology and lasers, the SAM100 applies measured mortar to the bricks and lays them perfectly every time. Not only can it work faster than a human bricklayer, it reduces lifting and repetitive motion that can cause injuries. It has already been used on over 16 job sites in more than 10 states and the day that Vice News shot their video interview, it laid a record 3267 bricks in 8 hours. See the entire interview and the SAM100 in action here.
Workers need not fear of losing their jobs just yet. In an interview with Vice News, published in July, Peters said the machine was designed to work with human workers rather than replace them. The goal is to increase productivity and efficiency, which have remained stagnant, and even declined in recent years.
The SAM100 requires at least 2 workers to fill and maintain it and to do the finish work on the wall. While it excels at long stretches of wall, specialty structures and intricate patterns will still require skilled masons of the human persuasion.
Granted, there have been mixed reactions to robotics becoming part of the workforce. The National Bureau of Economic Research created a model to examine the effect of an increase in the use of industrial robotics on jobs and wages, concluding that “one more robot per thousand workers reduces the employment to population ratio by about 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5 percent.”
However, this may not be so concerning considering that the shift toward robotics in construction comes during a labor shortage in the industry. As reported by Motherboard in August, “In June 2017, 154,000 open jobs were available in US construction, compared to 84,000 in May 2012 and a low of 41,000 in May 2009, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Robotic automation can not only help augment this shortage, it can also ease the burden of back-breaking physical labor for current construction workers.
Robotic wearables, the job site wave of the future.
While some construction tasks can be automated, most require human laborers to climb, lift, and carry. California-based Esko Bionics, which creates wearable robotics for medical and industrial use, is now rolling out its new exoskeleton for construction workers. Designed to support up to 15 pounds per arm, it will help aging workers prevent costly and debilitating injuries.
In addition to being physically challenging, jobs often require an extra pair of hands. MIT has the fix with its Supernumerary Robotic Limbs, a wearable set of robotic arms operated by using the motions of muscles in the torso.
In an interview with Digital Trends in July, MIT’s Federico Parietti, Ph.D. candidate, and mechanical engineering researcher explained that extra robotic limbs aid workers doing complex tasks that cannot yet be automated. The arms can hold heavy tools, provide extra support in hard to reach places and even hold onto scaffolding while a worker uses his own arms to do something else.
“These robotic limbs can move independently from the natural arms and legs of the user, and therefore can enable the execution of entirely new, complex tasks that would be impossible with only the four natural limbs. The SRL can also coordinate with the user in order to improve the performance or the safety of normal tasks,” said Parietti.
Expect to see more robotic construction technologies lower costs, save time, and prevent injuries on job sites in the future.