Construction Robotics: 7 Trends in Autonomous Construction

Construction Robotics: 7 Trends in Autonomous Construction

Also known as autonomous construction, the advent of construction robotics provides plenty of opportunities for better safety and efficiency on the job site. Automatic processes could transform the way we structure labor in construction by taking care of repetitive and dangerous tasks. Discover seven upcoming trends in construction robotics and how they could help you optimize operations.

1. Autonomous Heavy Equipment

What if your construction equipment could control itself? Autonomous equipment like excavators, skid steer loaders and bulldozers can perform on their own using autonomous controls. Most of the autonomous equipment available today relies on control systems. The user fits the system to equipment made by an established manufacturer like Caterpillar. Then, a software program uses sensor data to control the machine.

In this age of worker shortages and supply chain challenges, autonomous heavy equipment is a bigger benefit than ever. Software programs allow you to tell your equipment exactly how you want a job completed, and within minutes, it's producing consistent replicas without the need for operator intervention.

Instead of needing three workers to construct one part, your machinery can take on the heavy lifting under the supervision of one inspector, who can monitor quality and adjust the equipment's settings as necessary. This is especially great news for those complex, repetitive tasks that pose a liability when completed by employees, as having a machine perform them instead can help keep your entire facility safer.

2. 3D Printing

Modern 3D printing technology can handle a wide range of construction-grade materials to produce parts for buildings and infrastructure. The user can automate production to create consistent components more efficiently than manual processes. Upcoming 3D printing technology for construction will focus on printing larger components, including entire structures.

Because of its precise nature, 3D printing can also reduce the waste generated during production. Once you've created the perfect blueprint for your products, the printer can work with detail and accuracy day in and day out. It doesn't need a break or to even slow down, and its 100th output looks just the same as the first. 3D printers allow you to bring round-the-clock production into your facility, speeding up every other operation and helping you improve your bottom line.

3. Drones

Smart drones can "see" a work site using computer vision for applications in security, project management and material estimation. In security, drones act like intelligent, flying security cameras that seek out intruders in response to sensor activation. While supervising a site, modern drones can track project progress and scan on-site materials to estimate total quantities.

Drone supervision makes an excellent backup to on-site management and may even recognize concerns before your personnel can get to them. By providing this extra set of eyes on your sites, your employees can feel safer knowing there's another way for them to get assistance when needed.

4. Demolition

The inherent danger of demolition work makes finding robotic solutions invaluable to worker safety. Today's demolition robots can perform a variety of tasks, including breaking down walls, collecting debris and crushing concrete. Advanced robotic systems for demolition can handle entire sites, including difficult-to-reach areas. 

While modern demolition robotics perform more slowly than human crews, they greatly increase safety. By keeping human workers out of these conditions, your business is subject to far less liability. And when your employees feel safer, they can focus better on their jobs, leading to even better outcomes for your current site and every job after.

5. Semi-Automated Masonry

Bricklaying robots bring modern automation to a centuries-old construction technique. After the user creates a CAD program, bricklaying robots execute the file with extreme precision. As the robots manage the bricklaying process, workers maintain the supply of bricks and scrape excess mortar. These masonry robots can reduce physical strain while improving bricklaying efficiency.

6. Robotics in Lean Construction

The rise of robotics in construction creates more strategies for implementing lean construction into business practices. Because of their precision, construction robots can reduce unnecessary waste to improve efficiency and profits. This advantage perfectly ties in to lean construction's principle of waste elimination. Depending on a company's budget and operations, it may benefit in the long-term from integrating robotics into its lean practices. As automation becomes more prevalent and affordable, we may see more businesses performing lean construction through robotics.

7. Precast Development

Modular building is the new wave of the future. Autonomous construction provides the opportunity to build certain parts of equipment, tools and even houses off-site and in large quantities. Then, these parts can be chosen at will, transported to their destination and assembled on-site.

Modular building lets you stay ahead of your supply chain. Instead of waiting for an order to come in with unique specifications that you have to build from scratch, you can create a catalog of various models available for immediate shipment.

Robotic Equipment — The Future of Construction?

Modern-day construction has brought with it many challenges across nearly every industry, from a lack of experienced employees to worker dissatisfaction. While some people believe that automated equipment is a contributor to the problem and will result in even more worker displacement, many manufacturers are finding that this is not the case. Rather, workers are finding autonomous equipment to make their jobs easier and safer rather than eliminating them altogether.

When you bring robotic equipment into your operations, you gain the potential to work more efficiently than ever. Autonomous construction can enhance operations in numerous areas:

  • Costs: With automated machinery, more of your output is exactly what you need it to be. Machines don't slow down due to fatigue, and they're less likely to make mistakes that lead to wasted stock. They can manufacture around the clock with little to no interruption or mistakes. While they do require regular maintenance to continue doing their jobs well, the cost of keeping up with your machines is well worth the money you'll save in material costs.
  • Time: With consistent production times, you can better estimate your output levels. Many of these automated machines work at speeds far exceeding what the average human can produce, meaning that you'll save time. And a machine does not require extra on-the-clock time for safety training or learning to assemble new products. You simply have to teach the program what to do once, and in most cases, it can handle everything that follows with ease.
  • Safety: When equipment breaks due to misuse, it can be expensive. However, that's nothing compared to the physical, social and financial costs of one of your employees getting injured on the job. Once these machines are programmed per your safety protocols, they make your entire facility a safer place to be. Your employees can help manage complex jobs without actually having to participate in them, giving you an extra pair of eyes on some of your most challenging operations.
  • Profits: All of these efficiency measures can translate to major boosts in profitability. The faster you can work, the more projects you can complete, setting you apart from your competition as the construction team that gets things done. Then, you're free to take on new jobs sooner, allowing you to maximize your and your employees' time.

Flexible Fleet Capabilities From The Cat® Rental Store

With expectations in the construction industry always changing, you want to keep your fleet versatile. When you need to adapt your fleet on the fly, turn to The Cat® Rental Store. Our locations across the world, responsive customer service and flexible rental plans stay constant in an ever-evolving industry.

For more information about our rentals, browse our online inventory, submit a quick quote or call 1-800-RENT-CAT. Our team will be happy to help you find the tools you need for any construction job. Learn how our equipment can revolutionize every job site you enter — find your nearest Cat dealer and get started today.

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