Construction engineers and contractors then use the tool to locate places to mark by hand, measuring spots and drawing construction lines on floors, ceilings, and walls of building sites, he said.
Theometrics is using this system primarily in on-site consulting work across the US. The company has built prototypes of the next step in the system: robots that draw the measurements in the field based on the output of the master station laser system. "You select the work in CAD you want to point to or draw, and the robot drives over and draws that line on a floor for you," Frasca said. Theometrics aims to have its architectural navigation robotic system available for sale early next year.
Stathis said he hopes to transform a construction industry that has historically been resistant to change in the way things are done yet spends billions each year to fix mistakes that could be avoided by the adoption of better technology. "I show the technology to people now, and they still say it's impossible."
For those who worry that robotics technology will displace workers, Stathis said he believes it will actually augment human laborers. If more efficiency and automation means fewer man hours per job, the fact that fewer errors are being made will free up the contingency money the industry sets aside to fix them.
"Say you have a billion-dollar project and there is $100 million set aside for contingency," he said. "If we save all of that and 10,000 hours of labor on that project, do we reduce jobs, or are we going to use that $100 million and apply it somewhere else?"
Elizabeth, this is a very useful tool for the construction industry. Designers can check their design for strength and accuracy, but many problems in buildings are caused by construction errors. Some of these errors are in measurement, and this system is a great complement. Of course, there are errors that are more related to process that are not addressed. Therefore, while some contingency money will be saved, perhaps, it is not going to be possible to eliminate it using this system. Frankly, in the construction industry, hours lost are hours lost. I don't think that they will be applied to something else. That is not really a problem for society in general, but it could be for construction workers.
Depend on how cumbersome it is to use the bots, I see this as a great new tool. I don't see it having much of an impact on the drafting community. For many, it will solve problems. Perhaps it will not be a detriment to the industry either. It may just end up being a new and useful tool. Like moving from the simple transits of the past to the GPS connected ones today. Higher skill gets more money. Perhaps that will be the case here too.
Perhaps the application of robotics and lasers can provide an improvement in the accuracy of construction, and it would be valuable if it would actually deliver. My observation is that the errors are mostly made far downstream from the project management and supervision. The problems seem to happen at the actual point of application of materials, either through inadequate following of the measurements or through ignoring the measurements completely.
BUT being able to produce very accurate measurements will offer the chance to reduce the problem, so it is a potential source of benefit.
My company has been doing work in inside and outside construction with our robots. We had multiple inquires at the RoboBusiness conference this year on small bots for doing floor lines for the interior walls.
There is no doubt in my mind that better methods are desperately needed when workers make necessary layouts relative to CAD plans for building construction. We have examples in our city relative to huge mistakes during construction with thousands of dollars lost in penalties due to corrections needed. In our town, unions are very strong and the thought a robotic system may take the job of a union member would be a real issue. I do hope this augments the process and creates value added relative to the construction industry. Time will tell.
Very simplified versions of an instrumented (azimuth and elevation)laser sight have been in use for many years in the remodel industry for residential buildings. Manually operated and tripod mounted these devices can map out that not-quite-square countertop so the fabricatior can make a perfect replacement. The concept isn't brand new, but the automation of it is.
When they send in the mapping robots to scan the underground structure in the movie "Prometheus," you can see that mapping bots are going to be the norm. Ease and accuracy is key. Though, in the movie the bots used some sort of laser scanner system that recreates the whole surface while flying through tunnels at high-speeds. Today's bots are not at that level. When they are... architecture, exploration, and the military will be revolutionized.
Thanks for all the comments, everyone. I think there is definitely a unique value proposition in this technology. Lots of times a new company says it's doing something completely different and filling a real gap in the market, but I think in this case (especially from what I'm hearing) that it may actually be true.
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