Today, most manufacturing industries in the United States -- including material producers-use computer-controlled automation for certain applications.
Benefits of Robotization
Masonry work is an excellent candidate for robotization because it is repetitive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Robots can reduce costs 20% to 50% on 1500 to 2000 hours of work, when skilled labor earns $25 per hour.Obstacles
But automating masonry work faces many obstacles. Jorge Pardo, former director of product development and research for the National Concrete Masonry Association (NCMA), conducted research into masonry robotics in the early 1980s. "On-site navigation became much more of a problem than assembling a wall," Pardo explains. "We needed to design a robot that could navigate a site full of obstructions and lay a straight wall as a mason does." Other disadvantages of robotization include less flexibility and liability concerns.
Experimental Robotic Masonry System
Construction Automation and Robotics Laboratory (CARL) has developed an experimental robotic masonry system (ERMaS). ERMaS consists of several functional components, including: dehacking (unstacking and assessing the quality) of the bricks; design automation; brick placement; and mortar pumping.
Biomechanical Lifting Aids
Another way to make masonry construction more competitive is to increase the productivity of individual masons rather than replacing them with machines. The International Masonry Institute (IMI) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers together have recently completed a working prototype of a power-augmenting device that could help masons perform their jobs faster and with less fatigue and back injury.