A fascinating news item from Bloomberg crossed my computer screen last week. The headline? “Robots May Help Build Your Next Home and Fill the Labor Gap.” Now, we all know the growing role that robots and automation are playing in manufacturing, but construction? Surely not, despite the recent development of a robot that can put down 1,000 bricks in a hour.

At first glance, you’d think that construction is nothing like the controlled environment of manufacturing with its assembly lines and repetitive motions. Building a house is complicated, and it comes with a lot of variables, such as the weather and the terrain of the jobsite. How could robots play anything other than a limited role?

Well, it turns out that more and more home construction is being done inside factories, and robots are starting to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

Today’s modular homes are nothing like trailers; in fact, they’re often indistinguishable from stick-built homes. Demand for manufactured housing is surging, too. It’s expected to reach 85,000 units in 2020, according to a study from the Freedonia Group, an international industry market research company based in Cleveland, Ohio. And “modular” covers a huge range of construction nowadays. For example, at Blueprint Robotics in Baltimore, they’re cranking out everything from multifamily units and motel rooms to mansions that sell for millions.

Robots do most of the work there. They even help out with door and window installations.

That task remains one of the more human-intensive jobs at Blueprint — for now. The robots cut the rough openings, lift the windows into position and secure them into place, but carpenters then follow up with crucial final fastening and adjustments, as well as the installation of flashing.

Will that technology have future applications outside of a factory, either for new construction or remodeling? It’s unclear, but it’s a story that DWM hopes to explore in in the future — especially as the lack of qualified workers continues to be a major problem for the industry.

The age of robots is upon us. Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *