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Robots in Remodeling: Closer Than We Think?

Say "hello" to the first non-human drywaller 

November 08, 2018
robots in remodeling are coming close to true skilled labor

The Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan recently unveiled the latest in its lineage of HRP humanoid robots. The line’s newest addition, HRP-5P, is being touted as a significant leap towards the true automation of jobsite labor. 

In Professional Remodeler’s June 2018 cover story, “I, Remodeler,” we examined the early encroachment of robotics into the construction world, and learned of the engineering roadblocks keeping it from remodeling jobsites. “You don’t have assembly line repeatability in remodeling and home improvement,” said Timothy Wenhold, chief innovation officer for Power Home Remodeling Group. “We need a melding of AI and robotics.”

After five generations of HRP robots, that’s exactly what AIST has purportedly created. 

“We aimed to replace heavy labor work,” the report’s authors wrote. “(HRP-5P is) a humanoid robot that combines (a) robust body and advanced intelligence, and can autonomously work with robots alone.” 

In a demonstration of HRP-5P’s capabilities, researchers had it hang drywall. It created a dimensional map of the environment; leaned on the workbench while shifting the stacked drywall to lift only one sheet; carried the sheet to the wall frame (acknowledging the surroundings); lowered the sheet against the wall; found the tools it needed to fastened the drywall; and then screwed it into the wall (while holding the furring edge for stability).

The popular argument against robotics in remodeling—apart from price, which remains and will likely persist, at least in the short term, as too high for most contractors—is that remodeling jobsites are too unpredictable to automate. HRP-5P is, at the very least, evidence to the contrary. To the robot’s builders, it’s a sign of the machine’s viability as a long-term labor analog.

“Robot intelligence research and development on the platform is aimed at autonomous replacement of various work at the site of assembly of large structure such as building, house, aircraft, and ships,” reads the report. “This will compensate for the shortage of workers, free human beings from heavy labor work, and support to focus on higher value added work.”

About the Author

About the Author

James McClister is managing editor for Professional Remodeler.



For many years now, my trade publications talk about the sheer lack of quality tradespeople and the market is begging for more subs.
Mr. Roboto will do an an excellent job in spec house developments, as well as pre-manufacturer assemblies on or off-the job site. He won’t have to take the kids to school in the morning and won’t cut-out early on Friday. If robots can do a Lexus-quality paint job, drywall will be a snap for them.

We may have a shortage of workers but some of the people who want to come to this country will need to work. There is pride and value in work. Unless of course you just want to raise taxes and hand out more unearned benefits. Can you hang drywall?

As a past electrical engineer this sounds fathomable but with drywall comes a lot of dust, stairwells, high ceilings, etc. Although AI can navigate most of these obstacles I'm wondering how the servos and moving parts will cope with gypsum dust over time or even for one job. You are correct though for the smaller and even larger companies it will take a long time before this becomes the norm.

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