The phrase “construction site” garners images of hulking yellow equipment, orange hazard signs, and employees sporting hard hats. While there is some truth to this image, construction sites are changing rapidly. Given the decrease in skilled construction labor available today, the future of industrialized construction may instead lie in additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing capabilities require manufacturing facilities, and bringing manufacturing facilities to a construction site seems like a gargantuan task. It turns out, however, that doing all of this may be as simple as supplying a handy and portable toolbox. Let’s take a look at prefab construction and consider on-site facilities as the next step into the exciting future of this industry.
Prefab Construction: An Imperfect, Early Solution
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Construction can be a wildly inefficient undertaking, especially as we combat a shrinking labor market and a high potential for human error and safety issues. An onsite manufacturing facility at every construction job may be ideal, but for those sites that don’t have access to more portable options, prefabrication has been a viable alternative. With prefab construction, sections of a project are made offsite and then delivered to the site.
Prefab construction marked an early foray into the portability that is so essential to manufacturing at a construction site. Prefab has matured recently, with bathrooms (or even entire hospital hallways!) assembled elsewhere and slotted into their appropriate places on construction sites. It is not a perfect solution, however.
The Problem with Prefab
Prefab structures and components are important to construction, but there are always problems when you separate manufacturing sites from construction sites — neither can see what the other is doing, which can lead to costly errors.
Additionally, prefab construction often requires complicated transport, as well as many skilled laborers who may be in short supply. Even though it’s relatively new, there have been some prominent examples of problems in constructing heavily prefab buildings. Brooklyn’s Pacific Park, for example, was delayed ten years because of a variety of structural problems.
On-Site Manufacturing Facilities: Powerful Portability
To address some of these shortcomings with prefab construction, a new method has been developed. Utilizing structures roughly the size of shipping containers, robots capable of additive manufacturing can be easily transported to sites of all sizes. This enables the production of huge metal structures, right where they’re needed, removing the logistical problems inherent in prefab construction.
Companies like Modbot are working to compartmentalize and mobilize entire manufacturing facilities. Different containers would fulfill different purposes — one for machining, one for assembly, one for quality testing, etc. With continuing innovations like this, it could become increasingly common to have tiny, powerful manufacturing facilities hosted right on the construction site.
Construction is radically changing today and is including manufacturing more and more every day. Integrated tools and customizable platforms are essential to keep up with the times. As these processes become more accessible, programs like Fusion 360 allow for easy collaboration and learning on the job. Let Fusion 360 streamline your process today!