We build thousands of new buildings in various cities and villages. The house construction business is developing rapidly. While once the smart homes were the stuff of fantastic movies, now they are a reality, easily reachable in the near future. Meanwhile, there are already technologies, which help contractors and construction companies create buildings in less time at lower costs and higher quality. Emerging robotics technology is one of such kind.
Purdue University innovators developed a novel construction robotic system, which they are currently testing. This system uses an innovative mechanical design with advances in computer vision sensing technology. The National Science Foundation supported the development of robotics technology.
Jiansong Zhang, an assistant professor of construction management technology at the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, stated that their work addresses workforce shortages in the construction industry. They aim to automate key construction operations. He added that there are many unknown factors on a construction site, and a construction robot must be able to effectively account for them. For that, the system must use much-advanced sensing and reasoning technologies compared to what contractors are currently using in a manufacturing environment.
How does robotics technology work?
The Purdue team developed a custom end-effector design, which allows for material to be both placed and fastened in the same operation using the same arm; thus, it limits the amount of equipment which is required to complete a task at hand.
The team also worked on computer vision algorithms. They allow the robotic system to sense building elements and match them to building information modeling data in different environments. Furthermore, algorithms enable to keep track of safety hazards or other obstacles in the system’s operational context.
Zhang noted that by basing the sensing for their robotic arm around computer vision technology, they have the capability to complete many sensing tasks with a single affordable sensor. On the other hand, that allows them to implement a more robust and versatile system at a lower cost.
The Purdue team recruited undergraduate researchers in Zhang’s Automation and Intelligent Construction (AutoIC) Lab. They participated in creating the robotic technology.
Furthermore, the innovators began working to patent the technology with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The latter operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among the major research universities in the United States.
This office provides services to support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University, as well as benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, protecting, and licensing Purdue intellectual property.