Three Tools of Tomorrow – Next-Gen Construction Tech

Three Tools of Tomorrow – Next-Gen Construction Tech

It’s often been said the construction industry has historically been slow when it comes to new technology, but that’s a bit of an unfair assessment. Builders are experimenting with new innovations all the time. They just have very high standards for what they choose to adopt.

To show you more about what kinds of developments have been happening, we put together three highlights of amazing construction tech advancements that are being tested right now. Each of these could be future game changers for construction companies.


Energy-Efficient 3D-Printed Buildings

The 3D printing apparatus deposits material to create specified geometric shapes. (Image from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

The first prototype of a 3D printed building. (Image from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

The possibilities of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, are “unlimited” according to experts at the University of Notre Dame’s College of Engineering. Additive construction, they say, is poised to impact global efforts in energy efficiency as well as safe and affordable housing.

“With additive construction, we can rapidly build structures using less labor. Components are assembled one layer at a time to exacting standards. [We are] exploring ways to print reinforced concrete walls that are strong, more energy efficient, and cost less to produce,” said Ashley P. Thrall, Myron and Rosemary Noble Associate Professor of Structural Engineering.

Research in 3D-printed buildings is being conducted Notre Dame teams and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

According to Notre Dame, residential and commercial buildings account for approximately 40 percent of the country’s energy needs. Researchers are exploring wall designs that can be easily 3D printed to provide sufficient strength while requiring less energy to heat or cool.


A Mechanical Helping Hand

Purdue University innovators developed a construction robotic system. (Image from Purdue Research Foundation).

Teams at Purdue University are attempting to use emerging robotics technology to help construction companies complete projects in less time, at higher quality, and at lower costs.

As the university described, Purdue teams developed a construction robotic system that uses advances in computer vision sensing technology to work in a construction setting.

The robotic arm is able to sense building elements and match them to building information modeling (BIM) data in a variety of environments. Also, the arm’s design allows for materials to be both placed and fastened in the same operation.

“Our work helps to address workforce shortages in the construction industry by automating key construction operations,” said Jiansong Zhang, an assistant professor of construction management technology in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

“By basing the sensing for our robotic arm around computer vision technology, we have the capability to complete many sensing tasks with a single affordable sensor,” Zhang said. “This allows us to implement a more robust and versatile system at a lower cost.”


Sustainable Graphene-Enhanced Concrete

Graphene@Manchester team on-site. Pictured are (l to r): Craig Dawson, Happiness Ijije, Lisa Scullion. (Image from University of Manchester).

This summer, the University of Manchester in the UK reported that graphene specialists and members of construction firm Nationwide Engineering achieved a world’s-first in the field of sustainable concrete. The new graphene-enhanced ‘Concretene’ removes 30% of material and all of the steel reinforcement.

Experts estimate this will lead to a 10-20% cost savings for customers and a reduced environmental impact. According to the university, production of cement for concrete in the building industry is one of the leading causes of global carbon dioxide emissions.

As explained by Manchester officials, the addition of tiny amounts of graphene strengthens Concretene by around 30% compared to standard concrete, meaning significantly less is needed to achieve the equivalent structural performance. Graphene acts as a mechanical support and as a catalyst, leading to better bonding at microscopic scale and giving the finished product improved strength, durability, and corrosion resistance.

The good news for contractors is that Concretene can be used just like standard concrete, meaning no new equipment or training is needed in the batching or laying process.


The Right Tools for the Job

Construction is not an industry that is slow when it comes to technology. Every day, new designs in equipment and materials are being rigorously tested throughout the world. As advancements like these one day prove they can meet the incredibly high standards that most builders have for their projects, we’re sure to be seeing their deployment on all kinds of future jobsites.

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Category Cover Story, Features