Autonomous construction news is often focused on the heavy and powerful machinery used to do the heavy lifting on outdoor job sites.
Excavators, bulldozers, and other construction vehicles are being transformed with the addition of autonomous capabilities.
Little by little, these machines are changing the way heavy-duty jobs get done. The ability to operate without a driver and still accomplish carefully controlled actions means that less labor is needed in an industry that’s had a tough time replacing retiring workers and attracting new ones.
But, there are still a lot of construction jobs that demand skills and don’t always accommodate heavy and large building equipment. These processes are often more challenging to automate. However, that hasn’t stopped many construction robotics and equipment companies from developing new solutions.
These robots are meant to be compact and safe enough to operate indoors and in tight spaces, but also powerful enough to complete various construction and building tasks. They could set the standard for human and robot collaboration on parts of the job site that require more dexterity combined with tough demands.
For humans, these construction robots could help realize safer, more accurate, and speedier processes on all types of job sites.
The Hilti Jaibot For Automated Drilling
Hilti is a well-known name in construction. The Liechtenstein-based manufacturer makes a number of building and installation systems, as well as measuring, inspection, and power tools. In addition to this standard machinery, the company is making headlines with a new type of construction robot.
Introduced in late 2020, the Jaibot has been getting a lot of attention for its ability to autonomously drill ceilings and operate conventional construction tools, like rotary hammers and cordless vacuums. The three-foot wide, five-and-a-half foot tall construction driller has an arm that can extend nearly 17 feet.
With interchangeable drill bits, this Hilti robot can provide pre-drilling for fasteners used to install structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing hardware.
It automatically knows where to drill these holes by following exact data defined through building information monitoring (BIM).
Once drilled, the Jaibot will automatically mark the installation points and clear all dust. The compact robot can run for up to eight hours on a single charge and resume operations after a recharge time of just six hours.
It can move from one area of the job site to the next, performing drilling and other tasks that are defined through a guided workflow, which the operator sets via touchscreen remote control.
Just recently, Hilti Group has made a series of enhancements to Jaibot that make it more nimble at avoiding objects, removing dust, and drilling holes to exact depths and distances.
A Drywall Robot To Save Strain
Drilling holes in concrete and metal ceilings is far from the only job that amounts to a strenuous, tedious workday. Installing and finishing drywall is another task that’s demanding and repetitive, but also requires precision and skill. A new construction robot from San Francisco startup Canvas could ease the process.
Their semi-autonomous drywall bot has a telescoping mast that can automatically apply finishing compounds and sand drywall at heights up to 17 feet—and to a high quality, Level 5 finish. Unlike the Jaibot, no BIM or project modeling data is needed prior to operating the drywall robot.
It instead uses a laser-scanning and vision system to account for the geometry of the worksite. Operators are able to control its workflow through a tablet.
Drywall teams will still need to perform various aspects of installation, particularly in more complex areas, but the Canvas robot can do the work in tough-to-reach areas, take care of many of the tedious finishing steps, and improve overall consistency.