Last December, we told you about some new technologies with potentially game-changing applications in the construction industry. Now it’s July, and we can cross off that “potentially,” because the game is already changing rapidly. As it turns out, though, we should have gotten a slightly bigger crystal ball, because we left some of the biggest players off the list…robots in the construction industry.
Since the industrial revolution, man has been benefiting from the power of machines, and since John Henry took on the steam-powered drill, we’ve been wary of that power. Now, with the increasing use of robots—machines that can run without a human operator—are we becoming irrelevant?
The answer depends on who you ask: for every expert who says construction jobs aren’t at risk of being eliminated by robots, there’s another who says they are. But they almost all agree that jobs in every sector are becoming more skilled, requiring workers with more education and more experience.
My take? At least for now, we still have creativity, intuition, and adaptability on our side (not to mention the foresight provided by the Terminator movies…although not only one but two variations of self-assembling robots make me think we need a refresher).
But it’s always good to know your “enemy”—and, despite everything, robots are pretty cool—so I’ve put together a rundown of what’s here and what’s on the horizon for robots in the construction industry.
[bctt tweet=”No consensus on whether #robots a threat to #construction jobs, but here’s what we’re up against.” url=”http://buff.ly/1IF5zYk”]
Bricklayer vs. Robot
From a robotic arm that automates the traditional brick-laying process to termite-inspired robots that are reinventing it, technology is offsetting the growing shortage of bricklayers.
[bctt tweet=”Robotic arms and termite-inspired #robots are reinventing bricklaying. #construction” url=”http://buff.ly/1ITHAUv”]
Welder vs. Robot
Welding robots have been used for a while to limit human exposure to hazardous fumes and reduce the risk of burns.
And now mini robots that can work in places inaccessible to humans are helping build ships.
Demo Crew vs. Robot
Robots are ideal for demo in confined spaces, or for large jobs that require precise work.
But what’s even more amazing is a robot that deconstructs with high-pressure water, separates the aggregate, cement, and water for recycling, and even cleans the rebar so it can be reused.
[bctt tweet=”There’s a #robot that replaces #construction demo crew, recycles every bit of debris” url=”http://buff.ly/1gXO3bb”]
Crane Operator vs. Robot
Google has plans to install crane robots (“crabots”) in its new headquarters, which could reconfigure modular office space in a matter of hours.
Bridge Builder vs. Robot
A Netherlands-based company has developed a multi-axis robot arm that can 3D print metal sculptures in mid-air, and it plans to use two of them to build a bridge over an Amsterdam canal. The robots will start on either side and meet in the middle, printing their own tracks as they move.
Everyone vs. Drones
Today’s drones are filling in for surveyors, aerial photographers, and even bridge inspectors, and they’ll soon be developing 3D models to give unmanned bulldozers and excavators their marching orders. But we’re only at the tip of the iceberg—in a future with drones that can build skyscrapers without scaffolding or cranes, even the most fundamental construction processes will be up in the air.
[bctt tweet=”Will #robots take over #construction? More likely, #drones will take over world.” url=”http://buff.ly/1L2bJaZ”]
Don’t Be Discouraged
If, after all that, you’re starting to feel like a robot revolution is inevitable, remember these three things:
1. The best way to stay relevant is to adapt. Embrace new technology instead of viewing it as a threat, and always keep learning.
2. If a ninja can hold his ground against a robot, so can you.
[bctt tweet=”If a ninja can hold ground against #robot, #construction workers can hold onto jobs” url=”http://buff.ly/1ITIn7V”]
3. Until robots can master the combination of teamwork, ingenuity, and persistence, we’ll still have the advantage:
What Do You Think About Robots in the Construction Industry?
Do you have any firsthand experience working with robots or automated machines? Are you concerned about the future of your job? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think. And let me know what your job is too.