You seemingly can't throw a rock in 2017 without hitting some new walk of life where robots are being employed. A bricklaying robot called SAM100 (Semi-Automated Mason) that is capable of building walls six times faster than a human bricklayer. Created by New York-based company Construction Robotics, SAM is ready and willing to lay 3,000 bricks per day, using its combination of a conveyor belt, robotic arm, and concrete pump. By comparison, a human builder will average around 500 bricks per day. "For a lot of different reasons, the construction industry has been slow to adopt innovation and change," construction manager Zachary Podkaminer told Digital Trends.
Construction seems like an industry that, were I still living in Silicon Valley, I would be tempted to call "ripe for disruption." Researchers at the MIT Media Lab agree, pointing out in a paper just published in Science Robotics that construction "relies on traditional fabrication technologies that are dangerous, slow, and energy-intensive." Hey, sounds like a job for some robots, right? The Media Lab's paper introduces the Digital Construction Platform (DCP), which is "an automated construction system capable of customized on-site fabrication of architectural-scale structures." In other words, it's a robot arm that uses additive construction techniques to build large structures safely, quickly, and even (in some cases) renewably.
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.
While claiming to address the "shortage" of skilled welders, a company called Hirebotics has now engineered the first "robotic welding solution for hire". The automated welder is paid by the hour, just like skilled manual labor, and is far less likely to need a bathroom break and/or file a grievance with the local union. Claiming that traditional robotic welding automation has been a "poor solution" for most fabricators, the company is now offering a product called the BotX welder, which it says can accelerate business growth while eliminating the "headaches" of finding skilled welders. The company, which was started with the goal of helping manufacturers, says that the BotX Welder bridges the gap between inflexible, expensive and higher productive traditional automation and manual welding with skilled welders. It says that the BotX can be used both as a tool for a company's manual welders to get more done each day, and also as a robotic welder that is set up by a skilled welder, but then run by an untrained operator, via app.
RobotLabNYC's third installment will be on June 13, in New York City with Howard Morgan (FirstRound Capital) and Tom Ryden (MassRobotics); together, we will be "Exploring The Autonomous Future" (RSVP today). Coincidentally, Jimmy Fallon featured a new bit this week called "Showbotics," providing viewers with a sneak peek into the robotic future: While Fallon pokes fun, the reality is that robots today are showing up for work in record numbers. As America pulls out of NAFTA and starts a trade war with Canada over lumber imports, it is predicted that home building costs could increase by more than 20% over the next year. In order to keep America building without sacrificing margin, labor is shifting from humans with tool belts to job-ready robots. An example of machines being added to the field is MIT's Digital Construction Platform (DCP) – a 3D-printing fabrication robot.