Imagine walking onto a construction site with a helmet that provides augmented information while drones fly overhead and autonomous cranes construct an entire self-healing building without human intervention. Although this image may sound overly futuristic, modern constructional capabilities aren’t too far off.
There has been some significant research and development, and subsequent evolution in recent years to create a more efficient, safe, and productive construction environment. New materials have been created, new processes have been implemented, and new technologies have been applied:
The concept of augmented reality is simple: provide the user with a combination of real-world and digitally-generated images to deliver a more immersive and informative experience.
DAQRI has developed a piece of technology that does just that, and is truly something to be marvelled over. The DAQRI Smart Helmet provides a heads-up display (HUD), offering the wearer hi-tech data visuals from information like pipe pressure and thermal temperature to how-to guides and remote user assistance.
3D printing, as expected, is widely disrupting the construction process. Manufacturing components and erecting innovative new structures, this technology provides the capacity to entirely transform the architectural mindset.
The notion of 3D printing an entire home is nothing new, but the methods, materials, and printing technology are becoming increasingly able and precise. A robot developed by MIT researchers can erect a building in only 14 hours, with the aim to eventually build a structurally sound complex on the surface of Mars. Imagine what it could do in the Australian outback.
New Building Materials
From mud to hay, to concrete and rammed earth, the building materials available to construct a home are forever widening. However, there are some very impressive new products on the horizon.
Self-healing concrete is changing the capabilities of concrete construction. The concrete is combined with bacteria that when fused with water seeping into concrete cracks, creates limestone to fill the gaps and repair the material. Hendrik Jonker, the Microbiologist who created the material believes that the bioconcrete will be able to survive and self-repair for over 200 years.
Transparent aluminium, also known as aluminium oxynitride, is a clear ceramic material that has primarily been developed for military purposes. The transparent material is half as heavy and half as thick as bulletproof glass, yet has the capability to stop the bullet of an anti-aircraft gun or 50-caliber round. As it becomes more widely accessible, it can be expected to be used to build highly-durable structural components that are entirely transparent.
Autonomous robots and artificial intelligence have been controversial topics of discussion over the last few years, with big names like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg suggesting that AI needs to be regulated or the human race will be in danger. Fortunately, an autonomous brick laying machine provides an increased level of safety to constructional employees.
FastBrick Robotics, a Perth-based Australian robotics technology, is currently leading the race with Hadrian X. Hadrian X is a truck with a mechanical, crane-like arm that has the ability to map an environment and lay bricks accordingly. The mechanism is able to lay a standard of 1000 bricks per hour, in comparison to the average bricklayer laying only 300-500 bricks per day.
It’s no big surprise that drones are being used for construction purposes. However, their mapping and reporting functionality is only just now beginning to be fully recognised.
DroneDeploy has a readily available construction monitoring, surveying, and compliance drone that can be flown over a work site to monitor activity, and actively map and measure the facility. The idea is to eventually cut back physical worksite inspections altogether and have project managers simply check their worksites on their phone or computer from their office.
Only time will tell what next major discoveries will impact the construction industry. All that is known is that these new technologies will deliver leaps in construction capabilities and offer constructional personnel a level of safety and security that has been forever lacking in the industry.
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