Bricklaying robots break new ground

06 May 2019
Using robots to construct buildings improves safety, reliability and quality, says Construction Robotics' Zachary Podkaminer

New York-based Construction Robotics has created two robots that are transforming the way construction is done.

The semi-automated mason (Sam) can lay bricks nearly six times faster than a human bricklayer. Meanwhile, the material unit lift enhancer (Mule) is a lift assist device designed for handling and placing materials weighing up to 135 pounds on a construction site. This allows on-site team members to effortlessly move heavy objects without the worry of physical wear and tear. 

MEED speaks to chairman and co-founder Zachary Podkaminer to find out more.

Has robotics changed the way construction is done?

Absolutely, and the newest example, which will be huge in the Middle East, where construction heavily relies on block or concrete masonry units, is our MULE technology. It follows the same trend as the automotive industry, which uses technology and automation to make the process safer for workers, and is focused on efficiency and productivity. 

What are the key trends in construction robots in the market?

Ergonomics, semi-automated and co-bots. The reality of onsite construction is that a fully automated job site will require significant investment and a fully vertically integrated contractor to own the process from design to project completion. But the industry is not currently designed in that way.

Are robots cutting out human workers from the sites? How can we successfully create robot-human workspaces?

There is a shortage of skilled workers and the industry is suffering across the globe. The younger generation does not want to enter the trade, and the majority of workers are more than 40 or 50 years old and will be retiring soon. Technology implemented to increase productivity will only create more jobs and make the trade more appealing to the next generation.

What is the biggest advantage of using robots in construction?

Safety, production, scheduling, reliability and consistent quality. Automation allows real-time status updates and it allows workers to be safer and more productive.

How can these robots further refine construction work?

Prefabrication and modularisation, using robots to build panels thus reducing onsite construction time. SAM, the bricklaying robot, was recently used to build panels for a hotel in Indianapolis and the onsite construction of masonry was brought down from months to weeks as the panels were brought onsite and dropped in place.

Is the construction industry open to the idea of robots simplifying their work?

Yes, because the industry has struggled for a very long time and there has been a real change in the past year to two years, which has made using robots the hot topic. 

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