Construction is heading towards a technology revolution. Some technologies, such as drones and software automation, have already been adopted by larger construction firms. Here are some other technologies to watch out for in the near future.
1. Self-healing concrete
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The problem is that concrete does break down over time and eventually leaks. Once concrete leaks, it can corrode steel reinforcements and eventually lead to structural collapses. Since 2006, a microbiologist, Henk Jonkers, has studied ongoing maintenance required by concrete constructions.
By combining germinating bacteria and concrete, Jonkers hopes to actively “heal” the cracks in concrete erosion. The bacteria, found in natural environments, multiply by feeding on lactate, a form of sugar, to form limestone that closes the cracks. Jonkers expects the self-healing concrete to be in market in the next few years.
2. More advanced wearables
Construction is a huge industry—especially for developers of wearable technologies. The possibilities are endless as wearables offer improved safety and efficiency as well as expanded capabilities.
For example, The Halo Light is a headset that wraps around hard hats for nighttime projects. The Halo Light provides visibility for onsite workers for up to a quarter mile.
XOEye Technologies has developed smartglasses to monitor onsite workers. Their cloud-based “ocular” system allows real time management of workforce for safety, instruction and training. Their glasses have a tiny camera, which transmits what the construction worker is viewing.
DAQRI Smart Helmet offers augmented reality tools for different industries. The 4D helmet supports 360-degree navigation. The helmet also performs 3D mapping, HD recording, and photography.
As these technologies improve, wearables will have a larger roll in the construction industry.
3. 3D Printing
From concrete bricks to full house structures, 3D printing in construction is blooming. The obvious set back is having a large printer that can print large, strong structures. An Italian robotics engineer, Enrico Dini, is making great progress in this area. He has created the D-shape machine, the largest 3D printer in the world. Dini’s machine has printed small single room houses, but he foresees the 3D printer printing full urban areas soon.
If you think printing small urban areas seems impossible – think again. The Zhuoda Group, based in China, recently printed a large home structure using a 3D printer and then assembled it in 3 hours. The materials were made of reusable industrial and agricultural waste.
There has been a lot of buzz about the use of robotics in construction. Many see robots as an opportunity to fill the gap in skilled workers, while others are cynical about their effectiveness. Companies like FastBrick Robotics are aiming to change the minds of skeptics. By using automatic loading, cutting, routing and placement of bricks, their patented technology reduces time onsite and improves worksite quality. Their bricklaying robot is mobile and is able to work on most construction sites.
In 2014 The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering crafted tiny robots to perform unsupervised tasks. The researchers of these institutions have developed TERMES—a small fleet of small robots that build structures that may be too risky for humans. For the next four years they will be hoping to solve not only an ever-pressing safety issue, but also the job shortage in the construction industry.
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