“With so few construction businesses using automation today, there’s huge potential for us to transform the industry through robotics. Unlike building cars or assembling electronics, many techniques used in construction haven’t changed for generations, so we are developing new solutions to address key industry challenges”, said Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation Business Area. “This new customer segment will broaden our portfolio as part of a wider strategy to accelerate expansion in high-growth segments including electronics, healthcare, consumer goods, logistics and food and beverage, to meet the growing demand for automation across multiple industries”.
With more than 200,000 vacancies for low and high-skilled workers in the EU alone in Q2 20203, the industry labour shortage is a growing issue. Construction workers account for around 30 per cent of workplace injuries and are up to four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident vs. other sectors, with an estimated 108,000 fatalities every year worldwide4.
Designed to improve flexibility, productivity and quality, pilot projects include the automated fabrication of timber roof supports with Autovol in Canada, the robotic installation of elevators with Schindler Lifts and the robotic automation of Intelligent City’s production of prefabricated modular homes, which has increased production efficiency by 15 per cent and speed by 38 per cent whilst reducing waste by 30 per cent.
Swedish construction firm, Skanska, found its robot welding application improved quality, employee productivity and safety by automating the fabrication of steel reinforcement baskets on-site. The solution also reduced the cost and environmental impact of transporting bulky finished reinforcement baskets to building sites.
“It is increasingly challenging to find people to carry out difficult, time-consuming tasks, which means we must look further afield to find the workers we need”, said Ulf Håkansson, Technical Director for Skanska Construction. “Allocating these tasks to robots can address this, enabling us to deploy our workers more effectively. Automation also suits the experience and imagination of the next generation of engineers, who have grown up with technology and will be invaluable in helping us find new ways to use robots in our business”.
ABB is also working with several leading universities to co-develop new automated construction technologies including ETH Zurich, a leading research university in Switzerland. At ETH, ABB is supporting research in the field of robotics fabrication in architecture and construction and has helped establish the world’s first laboratory for collaborative robotic digital fabrication in architecture, hosted at the ETH’s Institute of Technology in Architecture.
This week, the latest large scale ABB robotics 3D printing technology for the construction industry is being showcased by the Austrian architectural bureau MAEID at the 17th International Architecture – La Biennale di Venezia, to inspire architects about the possibilities of automation and 3D printing, driving innovation and enabling new ways of building.
An ‘Automation and the Construction Industry’ panel discussion will be available to view on the website from 26 May 2021.
You can find more information about ABB on its website.
1ABB Construction Industry Survey May 2021.