With the introduction of 3D printers on construction job sites, many are worried that robots will begin taking over the jobs of hardworking tradesmen. It’s more likely, however, that workers will be working WITH robots long before we’re completely replaced. For example, one company that makes exoskeletons to help paraplegics walk is also developing an exoskeleton specifically for constructions workers that will allow them to lift 50 pound pieces of equipment with one finger. Now, a former NASA and General Motors (GM) partnership has turned into an expedition into the blue collar fields.
The Robonaut 2 was originally designed for astronauts to allow them to do tasks much more quickly in space. Based upon its successes in other atmospheres, the concept is now being altered to be useful on Earth. According to Wired, GM has teamed up with a medical-technology firm called Bioservo to make this a reality. As you’ll see in the video below, also from Wired, a power tool battery (which happens to be a DeWalt battery, we’re not sure if they’re affiliated with this or not) is connected to a smart phone sized control board, which is wired to the glove. The programming of the glove allows workers to maintain grip on a tool for repetitive tasks without much effort.
GM currently plans to use and test these gloves in their warehouse, but, if they prove valuable, there’s no doubt the construction industry would be interested in the technology.
Full story: GM’s Roboglove Will Turn Workers Into Cyborgs | Wired
Almost two years after they announced the release of their Bluetooth Battery that allowed owners to remotely monitor battery life and even disable the battery if it’s stolen, DeWalt is set to release a massive upgrade to their connected tool platform.
There’s no shortage of company’s trying to improve the world’s roadways. Asphalt and concrete each have their own disadvantages, especially when maintenance environmental factors are taken into consideration. Plastic is a major problem for landfills, as well, as it can take an estimated 500 years to fully decompose. One UK company believes they can solve both maintenance and environmental problems through the use of recycled plastic.
Feeling the pressure of 9 straight quarters with a decline in total revenue, Caterpillar has acquired the equipment sharing startup, Yard Club, to get help dig themselves out of the dirt. Their most recent quarter was the company’s first positive revenue quarter since November of 2012.
I’m a firm believer that before robots start taking over construction jobs, we’ll first be working with robotics to make workers more efficient and our job sites more functional. Instead of using 3D printing robots to build an entire project, why not use them first to create intricate details and bring character back to buildings? Instead of pushing human labor out of the way, why not use robotics to enhance the abilities of our workers, to improve their health and productivity? With rise in development commercial exoskeletons, workers will soon be able to harness additional strength by just slipping on a suit.
Last year, Tesla announced a new disruptive product to the market in the form of solar roof shingles. Unlike traditional solar roof panels, these shingles mimic the look of traditional terra cotta, clay, and slate tiles, creating a more aesthetically pleasing look. This week, the company began taking pre-orders for the roof shingles and also released a cost calculator.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
Tracking employees instantaneously is a dream scenario for employers. It gives them tons of data to analyze to determine where money can be saved and where resources can be placed to be most efficient. The struggle is convincing the employees that tracking their every move is not going to get them in trouble or fired. There’s a balance in there somewhere and that’s the challenge facing both employers and tech companies right now.
Two of the most critical concepts of construction safety are the ability to see what you’re doing and to also be seen by others around you. Construction workers rely heavily on their employer providing lighting systems when working in low light conditions, but those systems are not always adequate.
There’s no doubt that the construction industry is behind when it comes to technology, but things are beginning to change. In the past few years, our industry has seen millions of dollars poured into new technology, including smartphone apps, advanced construction materials, and advanced safety equipment. One of the struggles –and perhaps the main struggle- with introducing new technology to the field staff is that many of them have been managing their jobs the same way for a long time. It can be difficult to convince them to change, especially if they have been successful with their current process.