Construction sites might one day be buzzing with robots. Researchers are developing autonomous construction systems that can assemble — or even 3-D print — any structure imaginable.
Their latest success: a robot from MIT that recently achieved the world's largest, fastest 3-D print job. It built a 12-foot dome out of insulation foam in just 13 hours using power from only batteries and the sun.
Robotic construction has come a long way in recent years. Autonomous drones circle construction sites, giving builders a bird's-eye view of the progress. The semi-automated mason, or SAM, robot can lay up to 1,200 bricks a day. And some robots can even print entire houses in a matter of days — making construction much more cost-effective and efficient than relying solely on manpower.
But while there is growing concern that robots are removing jobs from the workforce, we're still a long way from becoming fully reliant on robotic construction.
Robots still have a hard time moving around and adjusting to a highly varied environment like a construction site. And 3-D-printed objects aren't as strong as traditional ones. We haven't proved them in everyday use, let alone in extreme conditions like earthquakes and storms.
In the near future, most industry experts expect robots and humans will work together — robots will handle the monotonous tasks while humans tackle the tricky stuff.