Early in my career as a carpenter a story in New England Builder (now JLC) had me scared. The story was about modular homebuilding in Scandinavia and how modular houses would soon be shipped from there to here. I was convinced it would happen and that it would put me out of a job. Fortunately, neither thing happened.
If I was a young mason today I might be similarly concerned about SAM and his fellow robots. SAM stands for Semi-Automated Mason, and “he” can be seen in the first video below. It begins with a demonstration of SAM at this year’s World of Concrete and ends with a close-up look at how the unit functions.
SAM is not the only bricklaying robot around. An Australian inventor has developed a “robot” called Hadrian, which is said to be able to lay 1,000 bricks per hour (second video). And researchers at the University of Buffalo are developing robotic assistants for masons. SAM has already been used on the jobsite; you can see “him” in action in the third video below.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the ingenuity of the people who designed these devices while at the same time harboring misgivings about technology that replaces tradesmen. The people developing the technology say they are doing it because there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen; older tradesmen are retiring and not enough young people are entering the trades to replace them. Labor shortages are a serious problem, though mechanizing the trades may not have the desired effect because some young people will be disinclined to enter trades where they have to compete with robots.