Robots invade the construction site

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Teresa Arevalo was in high school when she first tried to finish drywall at her brother’s construction company. “It’s a good art,” she says about turbidity – applying and smoothing drywall. “Like freezing a cake, you have the illusion that the wall is flat.”

Fast-forward a few decades: Arevalo is now working on The canvas, A company created Robot using Artificial intelligence This is capable of drywall as nearly as technical as a skilled human worker.

The robot, led by Arevalo, has been deployed to several construction sites in recent months, including the new Harvey Milk station at San Francisco International Airport and an office building connected to Chase Center Square in San Francisco.

About the size of a kitchen stove, a four-wheeled robot navigates an unfinished building with laser scanners and a robotic arm mounted on a vertical platform. When placed in a room, the robot scans unfinished walls with LidarThen work begins on smoothing the surface before applying a semi-perfect layer of drywall compound; Sensors help it keep away from human workers.

Canvas robot can help companies do more drying work in less time. It requires human supervision, but its operator does not need to be an expert in drywall or robotic fabrication.

It has always been impractical to deploy robots on construction sites, because the environment is diverse, complex and changeable. However, in the past few years, including low-cost progress The laser Cheaper sensors, robotic arms and handles Open source software Navigation and Computer vision It made it possible to automate and analyze further construction.

More advanced machines that go to construction sites will help make construction less wasted. to me McKinseyIn construction, productivity has improved less than any other industry over the past two decades. The arrival of more automation may change the demand for labor in a number of construction occupations.

Kevin Albert, Co-founder and CEO of Canvas, previously worked at Boston Dynamics (Company famous for Lifelike walking robots) And in the manufacturing industry. He says there’s a huge opportunity in construction, which generates about $ 1.4 trillion a year and accounts for about 7 percent of the United States’ GDP, but has seen relatively little use of computing and automation. “We really see building as mobile manufacturing,” he says. “There is this natural extension of what machines can now do in the real world.”

He says Canvas is part of a boom in construction technology Alex Schreyer, Director Building and Construction Technology Program At the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He says some of the biggest advances are being made in prefabrication of buildings, using automated processes to build large portions of buildings that are then assembled on site. But he says robots and artificial intelligence are increasingly finding their way to traditional job sites.

Autonomous Vehicles Made by Volvo Move materials and tools around some of the big sites. Technology from a startup in San Francisco Built robots Allows construction machinery such as excavators and tractors to work independently. An ever-growing array of robotic equipment can take over specialized construction tasks incl Welding, drillingAnd and Laying bricks. “Some really interesting things are happening,” says Schreyer.

‘A lot of potential’

IDC Transfer The January 2020 publication predicts that the demand for construction robots will grow 25 percent annually through 2023.

One of the big opportunities in construction, Schreyer says, is the use of computer vision and other sensing technologies to track the movement of materials and workers around a job site. The program can automatically report a task is delayed or if something is installed in the wrong place. “There is a lot of potential to do something with artificial intelligence,” says Schreyer. “More companies will move into this field of artificial intelligence.”

DoxilHeadquartered in Redwood City, California, it creates a moving robot that scans job sites in 3D so the program can calculate the progress of the project. Four legs Boston Dynamics The robot named Spot is It is being tested For the same purpose in a number of locations. Several companies sell drones for automatic screening of construction sites, including fan, vHive, ABJ dronesAnd and DJI.

BuildsHeadquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, it sells software that uses cameras mounted on site managers’ helmets, which automatically capture a site and process images to identify discrepancies between plans and work in progress. The technology is used in several large European construction projects.

The aim is to use data collected from worksites to help companies design buildings and better plan construction schedules, says Roy Danone, Buildots’ co-founder and CEO. “We think we can have a big impact on planning, if we have enough projects that show how we plan and how things are actually going,” he says.

“The adoption of technology in construction has lagged behind almost everything except hunting and fishing over the past decades,” says Josh Johnson, a consultant at McKinsey who tracks the construction industry.

Enter the epidemic

McKinsey Transfer Last month predicted a major shake-up in the construction industry over the next decade, as companies adopt technologies and methodologies from the manufacturing world. Thanks to advances in technology and an increasingly skilled workforce, Johnson says things are already beginning to change. The pandemic is also speeding up the shift, by making it more difficult to bring workers to the site and forcing companies to reassess supply lines and processes. “It imposes a lot of this legacy [construction contractors] And large companies to start investing, ”Johnson says.

Arevalo, who oversees the deployment of a canvas robot, says a drywall robot cannot handle corners or angles like a human being; She says many trainees see working with a robot as an opportunity to learn how to use the most advanced robotic machines.

The company also enjoys local union support. Robert Williams 3, Business Director for District Council 16, International Confederation of Illustrators and Craftsmen said in a statement.

But this apparently did not calm fears among construction workers who had seen the robot in action. “They like the fact that it’s very consistent, and the wall is cool,” Arevalo says. But the next question is, “When will I take up my job? “

This story originally appeared

Image list by The canvas

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