The bots are building! Or, to be more precise, they soon might be. Can the commercialization of homebuilding robots change construction? The idea might seem farfetched, but one company is investigating the possibilities with technology that currently exists.
Robotics company Quantum Intl. Corp., www.quantuminnovators.com, Houston, Texas, is investigating a robot, which is pioneered by a USC (University of Southern California) professor, that has the ability to read a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing from an architect and build a house through the use of 3D printing technology. The vision is that the robots can build vertical walls and even domed roofs through the action of applying successive layers of concrete on top of one another.
The thought, says Robert Federowicz, CEO, Quantum, is the robots will be able to build structures faster, more safely, and more efficiently. In fact, he believes there is a green appeal too, adding the robots can carry out this task with a smaller carbon footprint. But all in all, don’t fret because the robots are meant to augment, not replace, traditional construction workers.
He adds, “We envision this technology augmenting rather than replacing the traditional construction industry, potentially creating an entire new sector of jobs engineering, assembling, transporting, and maintaining these robots. We already know that 3D printing and rapid prototyping work–this is simply a new approach we’re exploring to preexisting tech.
He speaks to the age-old debate about the fear of machines replacing humans, and this is why such ideas need to be properly communicated to the market. Presenting the robots as a supplementary effort to current homebuilding techniques can be painting this scenario in a positive light.
We have already seen the bots take hold in other tasks, such as order-fulfillment in the retail market. Look no further than Amazon.com’s acquisition of Kiva Systems, www.kivasystems.com, North Reading, Mass., this past March. This company offers an order fulfillment system that has speed and convenience as its core ideals.
Designed to make it easy for workers to pick items for shipment, Kiva’s system makes it so that instead of the picker walking through a warehouse and locating items on shelves, the items come to the picker via the robotic devices that run up and down a warehouse floor.
For homebuilding, given all the advancements in 3D technology on activities such as fabrication and being able to deliver pieces of a home to the jobsite intact and ready to install, one would think that the idea of a robot putting the pieces together was inevitable. Robotic helpers that can assist the humans in the homebuilding process can be a good thing. The future is always interesting.