Martin Fischer, Cynthia Brosque
As robotic construction methods are being prototyped and adopted on site, it is critical to analyze the potential and actual impact of the deployment of robots. However, there is no current robotics evaluation framework to guide owners, designers, builders, and subcontractors. For example, we need to know how many product, organization, and process boundaries have to be crossed to make a robot cost- and schedule-effective. What are the implications for the workforce, particularly regarding safety? How does decision making by owners, designers, and builders change with the introduction of robots?
This research will develop cost, schedule, quality and safety analysis for three types of robots that are being tested on site to formalize a Robotics Evaluation Framework.
The deployment of robots has typically enhanced safety and increased productivity and quality in the manufacturing field (Kumar & Leena, 2008). Current advances in robotic and computer technology, combined with the use of Building Information Models (BIM) have extended the application of robotics in construction. We can observe the use of robots in unpredictable and hazardous environments, as well as in several project tasks like robotic drilling, painting and brick-laying, unmanned quality inspection, and automated machinery. Bock (2015) predicts a pervasion of automation and robotics in the field given its advances in nearly all professional fields linked to the built environment. However, there is a lack of well-known established procedure among the industry to holistically evaluate the impact of robotics.
This research aims to answer: 1) What are the repercussions of using a robot on site? What are the potential benefits in time and cost? 2) What are the planning activities and workflow required? 3) What are the differences regarding safety and quality? 4) How can a company assess the viability of its introduction? How many organizational boundaries need to be crossed to make it viable?
We gained access to the first use of a concrete drilling robot on site and compared it to manual drilling. The robot reduced drilling for installation hangers by five calendar days compared to manual work and increased safety by cutting 98% of muscle strain work hours drilling concrete. From the literature and insights from this case study, we selected five dependent variables to compare robotic and manual work that appear general: schedule, cost, workflow, quality, and safety. This research also addresses the independent variables that prevent robotic diffusion in terms of the product, organization, and process boundaries that had to be spanned to deploy this drilling robot. Then we summarize the comparison challenges faced and reflect on the generality of the comparison variables and insights from this case for two other single-task robots.
The second case study consists of a drywall-placing robot developed in Sweden. The robot works hand in hand with carpenters as another subcontractor and aims to automate a heavy and monotonous task. The company predicts that it could operate at night to provide schedule flexibility. The battery-powered robot houses intelligent navigation algorithms to move safely around obstacles and people on the construction site. The system is equipped with lifting and drilling tools to fasten boards to studs. We conducted a detailed schedule, cost, workflow, quality, and safety analysis in a traditional apartment building project in Lund, Sweden, to determine benchmark data for the comparison with the robot.
The third case study analyzes robotic layout compared to a total station layout for a large scale project. The robot autonomously drives around the site, marking layout as it goes. The robot uses a total station for fine positioning according to the project BIM but does not require workers to manually join the dots on site.
The next steps are to analyze existing manufacturing evaluation frameworks and to assess whether the information from these three case studies can formulate a Robotics Evaluation Framework to guide A/E/C practitioners to consistently consider the impact of robotics.
- Bock, T. (2015). Construction Robotics enabling Innovative Disruption and Social Supportability. Chair of Building Realization and Robotics, 4.
- Kumar, V. S. S., & Leena, A. (2008). Robotics and Automation in Construction Industry. Retrieved from https://ascelibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1061/41002%28328%293
Original Research Proposal