Milford, Mass.-based construction company Consigli recently partnered with Rugged Robotics of Houston on a pilot to use small robotic vehicles to do the field layout of a 240,000-square-foot life sciences building.
The robotic vehicles feature integrated print heads that enable them to mark fully coordinated designs directly onto concrete floors. According to a press release, the robots can print more information than is possible with manual layouts, which reduces time spent reviewing plans, and allows for faster and more precise installations.
Consigli plans to continue collaborating with Rugged Robotics to unearth new applications for robotic vehicles on construction jobsites, and already has ideas about new ways to leverage the technology, Jack Moran, director of VDC and integrated services for Consigli, told Construction Dive.
Field layout is traditionally undertaken with tape measures and chalk lines, but the Consigli-Rugged pilot introduced a far more automated approach, Moran said. After project drawings had been uploaded to the system, robot vehicles moved around the job site marking out the layout on the floor slabs.
“On that job, you would have seen the layout of walls and doors, and hanger locations for mechanical piping and fire protection,” Moran said. “You would have seen markings indicating the location of hangers, water supply and drains. “
A construction background
Moran described the decision to partner with Rugged Robotics as a “stars aligning” type of scenario. Consigli is a constant student of technologies and employs a pragmatic approach in order to determine what technology could be used to help the company build more efficiently and safely. Recently, Anthony Consigli, the CEO of the company, asked Moran if layout could be improved using robotics. Moran was soon reunited with Derrick Morse who is co-founder and CEO at Rugged Robotics. Although he is based in Texas Morse grew up in Massachusetts and has a construction background.
“There are many technology companies looking at construction as fertile ground,” Moran said. It is easy to tell when people are more tech “
“But Derrick was really coming from the industry and speaking about real problems he knew we needed to solve … We decided we wanted to have him in the field, where he could test out his ideas on a real jobsite. After talking with our employees and visiting our job sites, Derrick spent a year and a quarter to find a solution. His ideas have been tested in real-world situations. “
Robot jobs beyond layout
The pilot Consigli and Rugged recently completed is likely to be just the first of many projects to come. Moran believes that there are many opportunities for robots in the construction industry. They can perform quality control checks and move construction materials around job sites autonomously. They can now move dirt and do grading. They will likely be able to do more dangerous work than safety-conscious construction companies would prefer to not assign.
“I like to think we’re leading-edge, but we’re not the only one in the industry thinking of technology,” Moran said. There is plenty of space for robots. Construction, like many other industries, is facing labor shortages. Industry forecasts show that this situation will only get worse. Change will be difficult. You can point out a few advancements that our industry has been slow to adopt and are now on Main Street. These are things that people used to look at you in a sideways light.