Robots that can weld, lift and bolt are being developed to help bridge labor shortages at domestic construction sites, though their use will be limited to night shifts when no human workers will be nearby due to safety and regulatory concerns. Major construction firm Shimizu Corp. showed off several robots Monday, including one already in use at construction sites that picked up a big pile of boards and took them into an elevator. The Robo-Welder and Robo-Buddy, with twisting and turning mechanical arms, will be deployed at construction sites later this year, the company said. Japan's construction sector is booming but contractors are struggling to fill labor shortages -- a problem playing out in other parts of the world, including the U.S. The robots demonstrated at a Shimizu test facility in Tokyo can reduce the number of workers needed for each of the tasks they carried out to about a third or a fourth of what's required today. But construction work is so varied, delicate and complex that the robots are able to handle just 1 percent of overall construction work, according to Masahiro Indo, Shimizu's managing executive officer, who oversees construction technology.
A Japanese construction company recently debuted two designs for robot workers that could make up for the growing lack of human construction workers. In a report from The Daily Mail, these construction robots will only be working during evening hours. One of the robots demonstrated by Shimizu Corp. is already being used in several Japanese construction sites. Called Robo-Buddy, the automaton lifted a bunch of wooden boards before hauling them to the nearest elevator. The Robo-Buddy and its partner, the Robo-Welder, featured robotic arms that can twist and turn to fit in various spaces.
Use of robots in construction will rapidly expand in the coming years with increasing speed, efficiency, safety, and profits, a new report claims. The industry is'ripe for disruption' after relying on manual labour for so long, according to AI consulting firm Tractica. It cited the recent adoption of robotic technology by a number of companies as the beginning of a growth curve. Projections place the value of the construction robotics industry in the region of $226 million (£173m) by 2025, a 10 fold increase compared to 2018. Wile the majority of demand is likely to come from construction sites such as demolition, a number of more specialised functions such as 3D printing, also face mass automation.
Major contractors Shimizu Corp. and Kajima Corp. both said Wednesday they will resume work at construction sites that have been closed since April due to the coronavirus outbreak. Shimizu decided on the move "from a viewpoint of providing job security in the construction industry and maintaining economic activities," it said in a statement. The company suspended work in 13 prefectures after a rapid increase in infections led the government to expand a state of emergency declaration from Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures to the entire nation on April 16. As a result, over 80 percent of Shimizu's 630 construction sites have been on hold. Work will resume as early as next Monday, with the company saying it will ensure that all workers wear masks and have their body temperatures checked upon entering the sites.
The National Institute of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) of Japan is developing a humanoid robot that is capable of performing simple construction tasks. HRP-5P can comfortably -- albeit slowly -- install drywall all by itself. In the past, we have seen robots laying bricks and robots assembling Ikea furniture. It seems like construction workers of the future will be robotic, and these examples are just a glimpse of that future.