Writing for the New Civil Engineer, Greg Pitcher reports that civil contractors will increasingly use robots and sensors to create structures in futuristic offsite factories.
“In 10 years’ time I see robots and robotic machinery being used in offsite construction facilities, rather than cranes and forklift trucks,” Duncan White, the director of science and industry at consultants Arup, explained in a recent report cited by the New Civil Engineer.
“I also think the factory will be more of a showroom, with clients keen to see how their products are developing before they arrive on site.”
According to White, sensors will ultimately be integrated into structures and connected to the Internet.
“This will allow maintenance regimes to be planned according to situation rather than visual inspections and improve the lifecycle costs of materials,” said White. “Materials themselves will continue to advance, with more strong, insect-like materials and self-healing products. These will be useful in civil engineering.”
Commenting on the above-mentioned report, Dr. Patrick Gill, Principal Research Scientist at Rambus, says the integration of advanced sensor technology in heavy industrial equipment such as robotic arms – whether on construction sites or on factory floors – offers the potential to significantly increase productivity.
“Distributed small, smart sensors could augment or replace traditional machine vision systems. A central, high-quality camera designed to triangulate the location of every possible obstacle and object of interest presents somewhat of a computational challenge for engineers,” noted Gill. “In contrast, packing a robotic arm with smart sensors creates an effective proximity sensor that facilitates adherence to very simple rules such as basic obstacle avoidance, reaching behavior and goal-seeking.”
In addition, says Gill, the point-tracking ability of lensless smart sensors (LSS) pioneered by Rambus scientists could potentially replace more expensive robotic mechanical position feedback systems.
“Our tiny LSSs can locate points to a higher accuracy and over a wider field of view than comparable focusing systems, meaning that robots of the future may use LSS to see precisely how they are positioned and move accordingly,” he concluded.