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Imagine a world built by robots. That may well be the future that awaits the construction industry, and a Japanese contractor is testing out that method.
Obayashi Corporation is employing the use of robots to assist in building a concrete dam in Mie Prefecture in Japan. The nation is facing a labor shortage and an aging one at that, so using robots would help tackle the problem.
The dam is due to be complete in March 2023, as per the Nikkei Asian Review's report.
It typically takes years of practice and experience to build up the knowledge of how to properly build a dam. However, by using automated equipment, that process can be shortened and expedited, which is precisely what Obayashi Corp. intends to do.
What the contractor has done is to develop automated equipment that stacks concrete layers in order to form the dam.
"By transferring expert techniques to machines, we're able to analyze what was once implicit knowledge," said Akira Naito to Nikkei Asian Review, the head of Obayashi's dam technology unit.
The dam will be 275.9-feet high (84 meters), and 1,095.8-feet wide (334 meters) upon completion.
In order to get to the final stages of the dam's construction, a huge amount of concrete first has to be poured into the structure in order to form the body of the dam. This part is built in layers, and in Obayashi Corp's system, all of this is controlled remotely via office computers. These control the tower cranes that pour down the concrete, as well as monitor the positioning of each concrete partition, and the progression of the construction.
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Humans are still necessary, however, so as to ensure everything runs smoothly. For instance, humans will still be in charge of the cranes.
That said, even with automated robotic systems in place, Obayashi Corp. has stated that productivity has only increased by 10%.
"Eventually, we may be able to cut building time by 30%," said Naito.
Given Japan's construction industry is an aging one, with 35% of workers over 55 years old as per Nikkei Asian Review's reporting, companies are looking elsewhere for solutions. Hence, robots.