Robotic automation has been an active component of the manufacturing business for years. A great number of cars and household appliances are created by robot armies with little human supervision. Robotic automation is safer, more efficient, and works with little human interaction. But what about building design projects?
Machines always have played key roles in building, starting with the ramp and the lever and advancing to human-run advanced machinery that still require personpower. And people need money, protective equipment, etc., in order to work.
Industrial robots came to be in the 1960s, with the robotic manipulator “Unimate” able to move objects up to 500 pounds. Today, the quantity of industrial robots at work has increased three times over the last 20 years, rising to 2.25 million. Yet not many of these can be found in the building industry.
One problem is that, despite their strength, robots still can show a keen sensitivity to moisture, dryness, heat and coldness, etc. Who is held liable in the case of accidents and defects?
Also, even the most highly skilled robots lack comprehensive management and supervisory systems. Suitable automation for robots may be a decade in coming.
On the positive side, robots can be used to address longstanding problems in the building industry. In Japan, robots came in handy when older labourers aged out and retired, or continued working with greater risk of injury, and there were few younger workers to take up their mantle.
Robots work longer, harder, and without mistake. Robots get results, and they get them right. And the possibilities for design creativity and innovation are endless.
In the works are cable-driven robots like Hong Kong’s CU Brick, itself a design wonder culled from Jenga blocks, and a high-rise operations robot created to do the high-level window washing, painting, etc., that could pose dangers to human workers.
As robots themselves are better built, they stand a better chance of claiming their place on tomorrow’s building sites.