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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Research and Utilization of Construction Robotics

The use of robotics on the construction job site is relatively new in the United States. Research and development of technology have been successful in the U.S. as well as Japan, but applying the developments is proving to be a slow process.
Research in Construction Robotics
One of the main goals of research in this field is to develop construction robots that can perform tasks that humans cannot perform consistently or get to safely. Spot welding and arc welding on scaffolding thirty stories above ground, for example, can be difficult both physically and mentally for a human. Robots have two characteristics that allow them to complete dangerous tasks better than humans -- lack of fear and repeatability. Robots will do whatever they are programmed to do and do it over and over with minimal error.
A group of students from Virginia Tech’s Mechanical Engineering department developed three autonomous construction robots that won the grand prize at the 2008 International Capstone Design Fair in Seoul, South Korea. The HyDRAS-Ascent (Hyper-redundant Discrete Robotic Articulated Serpentine for climbing), the HyDRAS-Ascent II, and CIRCA (Climbing Inspection Robot with Compressed Air) robots climb up poles and pole-like structures to inspect construction sites, a job that used to be performed by humans and has proved to be quite dangerous. Of the 1,226 workplace deaths of construction workers, 809 came from workers falling from high places, such as scaffolding and poles. The use of construction robots like these could drastically reduce the incidence of construction worker death on the jobsite.
Robots on the Jobsite
While robots are not always utilized on the jobsite, some contractors have started to use robots in concrete floor finishing. Working with soft concrete can be both physically demanding and frustrating. An intelligent horizontal distributor robot has been developed to pour concrete while it moves and levels the soft concrete. The robot can move in any direction and also avoids obstacles in the work zone, such as poles. Reducing the difficulty of concrete floor finishing by using robots like this to automate the work provides concrete contractors with a much more efficient process, allowing more time for more projects, thus generating more revenue.