Bricklayers will most likely be replaced by robots, eventually. Not for a while though, the robots are still too expensive, and slow. But I foresee it happening.
Here at this race, humans are holding off the future with trowel and muscle. But that may not last. Bricklayers are becoming increasingly hard to find nationwide. Despite rising wages, there’s a shortage of workers.
Nearly two-thirds of bricklaying contractors say they are struggling to find workers, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders . And it can take three to four years before a person with no experience can become a journeyman bricklayer.
In addition, productivity — how much brick wall a laborer can complete in an hour of work — isn’t much better than it was two decades ago. Bricklaying’s most important tools — a trowel, a bucket, string and a wheelbarrow — haven’t changed much over centuries.
These factors would seem to put the trade at risk of a robot takeover.
But the human competitors here weren’t worried. SAM is far from being widely adopted. There are only 11 of them, costing roughly $400,000 each, a prohibitive amount for many small contractors. The machines can’t do corners or curves or read blueprints. SAM also requires workers to load its brick, refill its mortar and clean up the joints of the brick it lays.
What SAM does do is work without getting thirsty, sick or tired. In some ways, it is running a different kind of race.
“It’s not whether or not we win in the first hour,” said Scott Peters, president of Construction Robotics, the maker of the machine. “We’d just like to see them in the fourth hour.”
Innovations like these could ease the pressures of construction costs that are worsening the housing shortages in some parts of the country. Even Jeff Buczkiewicz, president of the Mason Contractors Association of America, acknowledged a role for robots.
“The machines will never replace the human,” Mr. Buczkiewicz said. “They will help down the road and they will make it that we won’t need as many workers, but given the shortages we’re seeing now, that’s probably a good thing.”
But he added, “There’s a human element to a craft that you don’t get from a robot.”
(click here to continue reading Bricklayers Think They’re Safe From Robots. Decide for Yourself. – The New York Times.)
You should click through read the story if you can, there are some fun images and gifs of robots and bricklayers at the NYT website.