Robots that can weld, lift and bolt are being developed to help cope with a shortage of human workers at Japanese construction sites. However, their use will be limited to night shifts when no human workers will be nearby due to safety and regulatory concerns. Japanese construction company 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. Shimizu Corp.'s Robo-Welder is demonstrated during a press tour to the major Japanese construction company's robot laboratory in Tokyo, Monday, April 23, 2018. The Robo-Welder has a robotic arm that uses laser shape measurement to determine the contours of a groove, or channel, on a steel column to be welded.
A Japanese robot that can pick up and drill in a drywall all by itself could provide a glimpse into the future of construction. The smart robot, HRP-5P, uses object detection and motion planning to perform its construction tasks – albeit very slowly. It can use small hooks to grab the board, carry it across the room and then drill it in the desired spot. Robotics are common in manufacturing sites, such as auto plants, but those machines are stationery and carrying out the same task over and over, often in sterile and enclosed environments. Robots used in construction sites have to move around.
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 Turkish architecture firm is sharing plans for a new Robot Science Museum in Seoul, which will be constructed using robots. First reported by Dezeen, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has commissioned the building as a kind of robot museum, which makes the use of robot builders a mind-bending meta statement on 21st century technology worship. The global construction market could billow to $15.5 trillion by 2030 and is a key driver of economic vitality and wellbeing. Yet the sector is beset by labor and productivity shortfalls and has not kept with innovation. Robotics firms have taken note.
We are entering the era of robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), where machines can help make decisions about work being done on construction jobsites, while also taking some of the back-breaking tasks off workers. A historically labor-intensive industry, robotics offer an opportunity to help automate projects and heighten productivity. New research points to growth in construction robotics specifically. Tractica suggests that the market will reach $226 million worldwide by 2025, with a growing number of construction companies leveraging robots to solve labor shortages and speed up construction tasks. The largest market in terms of unit shipments will be for robot assistants used on construction sites, followed by infrastructure robots, structure robots, and finishing robots.