Project Management Program

Dr. Miroslaw J. Skibniewski

A. James Clark Chair Professor
Project Management Program
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
A. James Clark School of Engineering
E-Construction GroupUniversity of Maryland, College Park

Research Interest
Awards, Recogniztions & Honors
Activities & Service


Robotics in Civil Engineering

Miroslaw J. Skibniewski

Topics in Engineering Series
Computational Mechanics Publications, Southampton-Boston
Van Nostrand Reinhold Pub., New York
ISBN 0-442-31925-8
233 pp, Quarto, 1988.


This book evaluates the impact of robotics implementation in the construction industry with the emphasis on surface treatment operations.

The primary contribution of this work is the development of a comprehensive, multidimensional analysis of costs and benefits associated with a specific robotic application. An example analysis of the technical and economic feasibility is performed on two case studies, i.e. robotic sandblasting and robotic concrete form cleaning.

The technical feasibility is determined by an ergonomic evaluation of individual steps taken to accomplish the given work task, and by analysis of the requirements for robot control and process monitoring.

The economic feasibility, which is perceived to be the decisive factor in the market success of the proposed robotic systems, is determined by the analysis of the costs and benefits associated with their development and field implementation. The quantitative information with regard to the robot hardware, software and control costs was obtained directly from robot system manufacturers and users. The quantification of robot system development and system engineering costs was found to be a challenging problem with respect to the application not resembling the robot tasks in the manufacturing industries. These costs were estimated from the experience with the development of the existing comparable construction robot prototypes in the U.S., Japan and Germany. In the work site settings similar to a structured work environment, previous experience of industrial robotic systems manufacturers and system operators was used.

The robot system costs and benefits are treated in a manner not yet applied in the economic analyses of robotics in the manufacturing industries. Specific constraints characteristic of robot construction applications, such as performance in a harsh work site environment, difficult climatic conditions, exposure to dust, etc. are summarized and incorporated in the case study analyses. Also, some changes in the nature of the automated work process versus the traditional, human-performed work process are considered.

In the quantitative analysis of system costs versus benefits, the Net Present Value (NPV) method is used to determine the economic feasibility of robotics in the analyzed applications. Based on the assumed stable market for the analyzed future construction robotics, value to the contractor of the proposed robot system is established. Also, the potential return to robot system developer from the distribution of the proposed system is quantified on the basis of the indicated system development marketing and dissemination cost, and on the basis of the benefit from sales revenue.

The conclusion of this work indicates a reasonable economic potential in the robotic performance of concrete from cleaning, despite a clear technical feasibility of work robotization. However, a far stronger technical and economic potential of the application of robotics to the performance of sandblasting work, currently performed in construction by humans, has been determined. The key quantifiable benefits of this application include the removal of human workers from the exposure to silica dust, potential to increase process productivity, and significant labor savings.

A new approach to the design of the future construction robotics is suggested. It will involve the development of robot modules, each performing a specific function within the multi-task robotic system. This approach enables, among other operational benefits, the spreading of system development costs over several conceptually similar applications, thus increasing potential economic return on each application.





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