Robots may be coming for your job soon!
No, Not likely.
But as with other robotic tech in the construction industry, it could eventually make your job a lot easier and safer. In this case, JLG has just announced a development partnership RE2 Robotics, a leading developer of intelligent robotic mobile manipulation systems.
The construction industry as a whole has been slow to embrace new technology. Efficiency has increased over the last several decades but at a much slower pace than in other fields. Besides efficiency increases, new technology can help address the industry’s high rate of injury and death.
The collaboration of these two leading companies is intended to advance the integration of robotics with access equipment to deliver improved operator safety and enhanced productivity on job sites.
“Robotic technologies have long been used in a variety of industries,” says Frank Nerenhausen, Oshkosh Corporation executive vice president and president, JLG Industries. “The productivity imperative, along with the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the need for and adoption of robotic technologies beyond the factory floor. In fact, a large focal area in construction and industrial applications today is remote operation of equipment that keeps workers out of harm’s way.”
This collaboration was facilitated by a government contract which was awarded to RE2 to develop new technology to assist in the construction of large solar farms.
The US Department of Energy tasked RE2 to develop a robotic solar field construction system for the outdoor autonomous manipulation of photovoltaic (solar) panels. RE2 software is being integrated with a JLG aerial work platform to support the transfer, lifting and placement of the photovoltaic modules. JLG is supplying engineering support during the technology development phase of the project. Joint work is being completed on the control system interface between the robotic arm and the lift. The resulting integration will provide the foundation for the robotic solar field construction system.
Workers will supervise the robotic solar field construction system, which uses computer vision to autonomously retrieve solar panels from a delivery vehicle and precisely place the panels onto a racking system. An onsite worker then follows to secure the panel. The RE2 Sapien intelligent robotic arm offers a high strength-to-weight ratio, precise control and human-like dexterity to place the burden of the heavy lifting on the robotic system. This system is expected to significantly improve productivity and reduce the amount of time required to construct a solar field.
“The future of work is here,” says Jorgen Pedersen, RE2’s President and CEO. “Humans and robots are working more closely together, and the construction industry is no exception. Our developmental partnership with JLG will enable us to apply our proven robotic technology to specific applications, including those that require working at height and repetitive lifting such as solar field construction.”
“Developmental partnerships, acquisitions and organic product innovation serve as the three core pillars of our growth philosophy. When combined, they facilitate our ability to remain agile and accelerate the development of the future technologies that will advance the construction industry,” says Nerenhausen. “Our work with RE2 Robotics is an excellent example of how we are driving progress with companies who are experts and leaders in their respective fields.”
According to RE2 and JLG, a concept machine is forthcoming, with demonstrations planned to gather additional feedback in the near future.