How robots are transforming the construction industry

Yu Bai

Monash University is at the cutting edge of research and development in structural innovation and smart construction. Within the Department of Civil Engineering Professor Yu Bai and his team of researchers are breaking boundaries and improving the way sectors of the construction industry are operating by the introduction of fibre reinforced composites, robotic technology, and the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The construction industry is one of the largest and most rapidly growing sectors. Many industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, transport and warehousing have adopted automation to optimise speed, efficiency and cost of production.

According to Professor Yu Bai, the construction industry is lagging behind and not taking advantage of these technological advancements. It has also been reported that the traditional construction approach exposes workers to potential risk and hazardous work environments.

“Robotic technology has made significant progress and penetrated a number of industry domains in recent years. Construction can also benefit from these advancements. The use of robotic technology has the potential to transform current on-site prototype operations into made-to-measure structural production already proficient in other highly automated manufacturing industries,” he said.

Robotic Construction

The progress of robotic technology also coincides with the recently developed modular construction method and lightweight composites structural solution. This aligns with the concept of design for manufacturing and assembly where structural elements and units are prefabricated, assembled and finished under controlled factory conditions prior to on-site installation. This approach embraces new construction materials such as lightweight fibre reinforced composites and is ideal for implementing robotic technology. The results being a more precise, faster, low cost and durable production process with significant improvements in workplace safety.

Professor Yu Bai is furthering this work at Monash within recently awarded ARC Discovery and Linkage projects. Research will focus on the development of composites building systems that are lightweight, durable and integrated with a renewable energy system. These future house solutions will have wide-reaching application in places where permanent and temporary structures are needed. They are intended to be quick and simple to construct as well as strong, lightweight and corrosion-resistant. They may also be an adaptable alternative to current forms of housing in remote areas and can be used in response to natural disasters.

“It is anticipated that new markets will emerge and the composites industry in conjunction with the increasing demand for better use of plastic materials, will become an integral part of our built environment. The wide-ranging social and environmental benefits emanating from such a durable, affordable and sustainable construction system are considerable,” Professor Yu Bai said.

Contact Professor Yu Bai for more information.