No one knows for sure what the job site will look in 10 years. How will technology progress and what role will it play in construction? Let's look at some trends that might impact how construction will be done in the future.
Athletic flying machines? Say hello to quadcopters! Robots that think like athletes, solving physical problems with algorithms that help them learn. Quadcpoters (aka quads) have a simple design with a frame, an electric motor and four propellers that allow them to roll, pitch and accelerate.
In a warehouse in France, four quadcopters worked together to build a 20-foot tower with no human interaction! Pretty amazing, these little flying machines worked in unison without colliding into each other and they had the intelligence to know when a part is placed correctly and locked in place.
Raffaello D'Andrea and Federico Augugliaro have been leading research in this space. They are looking into how quads can interact with their environment. As a result of work like this, construction may become something that is solely done through a computer terminal. Imagine the future…you design a building, plot the robotic courses (for the quads) then hit the start button and watch your vision become reality!
3D printing is lifting off. This technology can be used in a myriad of ways ranging from fabricating parts to printing body parts for research. Just today, Rolls Royce announced that they will be looking into 3D printing for producing complicated engine components more quickly and cheaply.
In construction, firms have started using 3D printing. iKix, an architectural modeling service company in India began using 3D printed models as a project-management tool to help architects and their contractors collaborate and visualize their design. Since the 3D models are created directly from the CAD data, the models are more accurate. iKix reports that they have saved 3% to 8% in the construction budget due to reduced time, labor, and materials costs, as well as improved communication. Pretty cool, right?
Have you heard of Contour Crafting? Contour Crafting is a layered fabrication technology developed by Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California. It can potentially reduce energy use and emissions by using a rapid-prototype or 3-D printing process to fabricate large components. Comprised of robotic arms and extrusion nozzles, a computer-controlled gantry system moves the nozzle back and forth, squeezing out layers of concrete or other material to fabricate a form. The ultimate goal is to print a house in a day while drastically reducing material and energy consumption.
Contour Crafting technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole structures as well as sub-components. Using this process, a single house or a colony of houses, each with possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run, embedded in each house all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning.
Contour Crafting can help reduce the cost of commercial construction because it promises to eliminate waste of construction materials. Contour Crafting construction projects will be extremely accelerated; for example a 2,000 square foot house can be constructed in less than 24 hours! This rapid construction time minimizes the financing costs of construction projects that typically take six months or longer to complete. While the costs of manual labor will be significantly reduced, physical power will be exchanged for brain power in the construction industry. Reduced costs, and automated building will make construction accessible to anyone. Imagine a Contour Crafting machine for lease at your local Home Depot!
Are you attending AU? If so, make sure you are registered for the Build X: Construction Site of the Future forum that is taking place on December 3. We will be addressing real world challenges and discussing how trends like quadcopters, 3D printing, reality capture can change the future and help you improve predictability and productivity.
Did I mention that Federico Augugliaro and Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis will also be there?! Hurry, space is limited! Lastly, if you aren't going to AU, there is still time to attend. I just gave you another reason to go.