Let’s get used to robots in construction sites

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One of the most labour-intensive processes in construction is tiling.

Each year, over 40 million tiles are laid in new construction projects here. There is therefore great potential to automate the tiling process and make it more labour-efficient.

Our researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) and ROB Technologies have conceptualised and developed a robotic tiling prototype for automated floor tiling. This is still at the research stage. But if the robot becomes commercially available, the estimate is that the robotic tiling machine can lay tiles two to three times faster than the human tiler. An added advantage is that robots can deliver high precision and consistent quality.

Such a robot will be able to work alongside workers at a construction site and do the menial tasks of laying floor tiles while workers focus on higher-value added work such as refilling and grouting the tiles, and cutting odd-size tiles to fit the corners.

The arithmetics are impressive. While it takes two tilers two working days to complete a 3-room HDB flat, the same two tilers in two working days can do 4 such flats, if they have the help of four robots. This is a four-fold jump in productivity!

With backbreaking tiling work done by the robot, and manual labour reduced by as much as 75%, this advanced technology can also reduce the risk of worksite accidents.

Robotics is not new, but we hardly see them in our construction sites. The Building and Construction Authority will be happy to provide some funding support to help change the status quo.

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