The future of construction sites is changing thanks to a dizzying array of new technologies. Coming soon to a job site near you could be construction robots, drones and pre-assembled materials manufactured via 3D printing. This is no longer technology in the making, it is here and ready to be applied.
Interested in how this technology will affect the construction business as you know it? Here is an overview of some of the potential impacts of drones, robots and 3D printing technology on the construction industry in the coming years.
Drones for Surveying and Inspections
According to Construction Business, drones allow builders and investors to record progress on a job site quickly and accurately. Drones make site analysis less complicated and time consuming.
A camera is attached to the drone, which can fly and hover over a construction site, capturing aerial photos. This seemingly basic functionality is extremely beneficial with jobsites located in areas that are dangerous or difficult to reach.
One spot where drones have been utilized for inspections are on dams, where they are used to check for leaks, cracks ad deterioration. Drones can be used to map changes at regular intervals in troublesome areas, making it far easier for engineers to pinpoint worsening conditions.
Robots Clocking In
One of the most advanced robots designed for construction applications, developed by a group of Swiss researchers, has demonstrated an ability to independently lay bricks in custom designs, adapting the work to local conditions.
This pioneering construction robot uses an articulated arm and caterpillar tracks, guided by two computers. The first computer gives instructions to the arm and the second navigates it around the site. Both computers make use of a laser guidance system that is able to create a 3D map in of the terrain.
Scientists foresee a range of future applications for construction robots. Rather than replacing human workers, the visions is that the robots will work together with humans on the job site, each bringing a set of skills that complements the other.
Combining the Capabilities of Robots, Drones and 3D Printing
Experts in construction are working to use combination of several different emerging technologies for greater efficiency, automation and speed. One example is an aerial 3D-printing drone featured at the SXSW Robot Petting Zoo that extrudes concrete. It comes equipped with six rotors, a laser finder and GPS sensors, all hooked up to a spiral material conveyor. Theoretically, this type of 3D printing drone could eliminate the need for scaffolding on a project.
Robots are also collaborating with 3D printers at the California College of the Arts, in the form of Swarmscapers. These robots, which are also 3D printers, were tested by having them extrude glue that bound together layers of sawdust, creating a high-tech version of termite mounds. The idea is that they can make use of native materials on any site, an ongoing ambition of NASA.
On future construction sites, architects as might function as master programmers instead of simply as designers.