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Collaborative robots lift construction efficiency, safety

Vendor Triple E Equipment says that demand for construction robots will more than double in the next five years. “The hard truth is, there’s so much room for machinery because the construction industry is facing a serious worker shortage. The silver lining is that machines working in unison with humans could be just what we need to hit optimal performance levels.”

There are plenty of cobots around and more on the way. Construction site drones are a booming trend which is only the tip of the iceberg.They’re one of tomorrow’s team machines. There are others.

•Drones – Fast, agile, and capable of reducing days-long operations to minutes, the construction drone can survey a site in a fraction of previous times while safely accessing areas dangerous for humans. They’re able to keep an eye on worker safety from above while delivering survey-grade topographic data in a continuous stream.

•SpotMini – Man’s best friend gets a serious upgrade in this four-legged foreman from Boston Dynamics. You can watch this cobot building inspector going about its work and keeping an eye on operations in this amazing YouTube footage. The video highlights the kind of tech that’s rapidly approaching. The SpotMini is going to be available as early as next year.

•SAM100 (Semi-Automated Mason) – SAM could be the poster child for cobots. He’s capable of productivity levels up to five times greater than a human (3,000 bricks a day) and cuts expenditure while upping on-site safety. The best part is he can’t do it alone: SAM is a cobot who must work in tandem with a human mason.

•The Mule – This worker-friendly weightlifter has already been deployed to great effect. As worthy of the cobot label as the SAM100, the Mule works to assist its human partner in shifting heavy loads while reducing the risk of injuries and accidents due to physical fatigue.

•HRP-5P – Japan’s entry to the cobot ranks sounds like a character from Star Wars and its looks aren’t light years away. Watch the humanoid robot in action as it installs drywall completely autonomously. It’s a cobot in the sense that it collaborates with humans on prioritizing productivity, but of all the ‘bots on our list, it’s the one most likely to stoke job-loss fears.

The list of hardware-helping hands goes on, as repetitive and demanding tasks like tying rebar, constructing masonry, and sculpting intricate building designs become ever more efficient. Many of the examples we’ve highlighted may need to wait a while before they rub shoulders with you on the average building site. They’re either prohibitively expensive as with the SAM100, or in the experimental stage.

The Sherpa EHD is a remote-controlled skid steer for on-site tasks which pose an unacceptable risk to a team. This compact cobot is 30 inches wide, which makes it a highly-maneuverable asset in tight spots. It functions via a microprocessor which operates by the programmable logic controller principle, providing superior accuracy, ease of operation, and exceptional user control.

Computer control also ensures the optimum in energy expenditure and operational efficiency. When the remote-controlled aspects aren’t required, the EHD can easily convert to manual operation. The EHD is 100 percent battery powered. This fact means zero exhaust emissions to pose hazards to on or off-site health, while its electric engine cancels out the kind of noise that’s damaging workers all over America. Both aspects, of course, make these machines perfect for indoor work.

This model of Sherpa requires a human operator and may even play its part in gaining new contracts for a firm. The shift toward eco-friendly construction and construction equipment is in full swing. Companies who deploy green machines are not only more likely to gain more contracts, they’ll be keeping their workers safer, healthier, and more productive.

The outlay to bring a cobot onsite is minimal when compared to the returns. A few years running a Sherpa could put as much as $1 million in a builder’s pocket by cutting on-site costs, accoring to Triple E, which adds that cobots maximize productivity, minimize risk, and improve efficiency.

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Ron Seybold

Ron Seybold