Robot busy laying bricks at Auburn University jobsite
- Rabren General Contractors showcased this week that it is using Construction Robotics’ SAM100 bricklaying robot to lay foundation for an approximately $70 million performing arts center at Auburn University, Opelika-Auburn News reported.
- Subcontractor C&C Masonry worked with the university and Rabren to bring SAM to Auburn, reportedly marking the first time SAM — short for semi-automated mason — has been used in the state of Alabama. C&C’s President Scott Cunningham reportedly told the newspaper that the company learned about SAM while attending a World of Concrete annual event in Las Vegas and ultimately decided on the robot due to the “complexity of the pattern [it] was putting on the building.”
- The robotic device can reportedly place 3,000 bricks per day, and Cunningham said that while it still requires some human oversight, SAM reduces manpower requirements by at least four or five masons and allows the company to better utilize its resources. “You program in the pattern, load it into the software, and it just does what you tell it to do,” he said. Site superintendent Antonio Hamilton told the newspaper, that, “With SAM having that design program in its system, it takes the load off of the masons, foremen and also our management."
Robots that can aid in physical construction that are both emerging on the market and being developed have been a prominent topic in the industry for years, and announcements of new robotic solutions for onsite equipment have cropped up quite a bit lately, with companies such as Velocity Robotics, Built Robotics and Fastbrick Robotics unveiling measuring and cutting robots, autonomous tractors and bricklaying robots like SAM, respectively, within the past few years.
Oftentimes, talk of such technology has workers feeling uncertain about their future. Some reports have found that robotic devices could replace humans in some jobs in wide swathes, for instance. Bricklaying is one of the segments of the workforce that could be hardest hit, Mace predicted last year.
Yet decision-makers in some markets tend to see it as a boon. For example, Japan, one of the places in which labor shortage is a real problem, seems to be a welcoming market for bots, as they are seen not just as a faster, more-efficient or in any other ways better alternative to human workers, but as a a much-needed solution to a lack of able hands.
Japan is a striking example of a construction market willing to adopt technology, in part because of its aim to take the lead in what's being dubbed around the world as the "fourth industrial revolution." In the U.S., however, the actual use of robots on construction sites is more rare, and seems to be more slowly — although surely — gaining traction. While the labor shortage is a problem stateside, too, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers' policy director Brian Kennedy, for one, isn’t worried that androids will displace masons entirely anytime soon, according to an Associated Press report.
Instead, the machines will more likely better serve in the industry in another way: as a lure in simply attracting younger workers to construction-related firms, according to C&C's Hamilton. The superintendent told the Opelika-Auburn News that he believes the new technology will help bring a younger generation to the masonry profession. C&C makes up just one company part of a widespread trend of solving the industry's aging and lacking-in-numbers workforce in one fell swoop through the excitement that technology can spur.