NewsAnalysis: TECHNOLOGY  
Your New Employee: Does Mr. Robot  
Have a Place on Your Jobsite?  
utomation may be growing in  
the glass manufacturing and  
fabrication businesses, but  
A
what about the jobsite? Will robotics  
be the next big thing for the contract  
glazing industry? While robotic sys-  
tems are currently available for some  
trades such as masonry, we’ve yet to  
see anything along those lines for the  
installation of curtainwall and other  
glazing products.  
“It’s going to be a long, long time be-  
fore we see humanoid robots strutting  
around construction sites, but we are  
seeing slow progress in the automa-  
tion of some isolated construction and  
maintenance processes,” says Mic Pat-  
terson,director of strategic development Contract glaziers aren’t yet using robotics on jobsites, but some companies  
for Schuco-USA. “There are emerging have automated parts of their fabrication processes. Dynamic Glass operates  
technologies for curtainwall unit trans- the Elumatec SBZ 151 CNC machine, which is programmed in the office and  
port, positioning and installation, for can do almost all of the fabrication processes at the touch of a button.  
example. Automated climbing concrete  
formwork and window washing tech- ways to increase this over time.  
nologies are also developing,”he says. “There is certainly opportunity for particularly well to automation.”  
Bill Sullivan, president of Brin Glass robotics to make it to the jobsite in He explains, “Products must be de-  
fragmented) form it doesn’t lend itself  
Co.,has a similar perspective.His com- the near future. Technology is advanc- signed for efficient automated assembly,  
pany is currently using automated ma- ing at a rapid rate and our industry is and buildings are no different. To really  
chinery in a variety of applications in more sophisticated than ever,” Carey optimize the potential for onsite auto-  
their production lines, but they aren’t says. “Technological advancements mated construction, we need to rethink  
necessarily considered robotic systems. have allowed us to push the envelope the entire building process starting with  
“My sense is that it will be some with design and material (jumbo glass, the design of the buildings themselves,  
time before we see any robotic sys- structural glass walls, etc.). We are al- the materials used,the design of compo-  
tems in the field on jobsites. If such a ready using high-tech equipment to nents and products—taking maximum  
system were developed in the future, I help install monumental facades, and I advantage of smart, offsite pre-assem-  
would see an application for unloading can see more automation coming down bly and prefabrication strategies—and  
of glass/fabricated frames potentially the pike. Robotics could lead to a safer finely tune all to facilitating very specific  
being handled by a robotic system. I jobsite and faster installation with and detailed strategies for automated  
think systems that would involve the some of these monumental products onsite assembly. In other words, effec-  
installation of glass and/or frames are we now offer.”  
tive onsite automation requires a fully  
pretty off into the future.” While there certainly may be advan- integrated building process from con-  
Dallas-based contract glazier Dy- tages, there are still a lot of challenges cept through construction.We are a long  
namic Glass has also been incorporating in moving toward an increasingly au- way from such a practice today.”  
robotics into its fabrication processes. tomated jobsite. Patterson says one  
And Kevin Carey, executive vice pres- problem is that building construction  
ident, says his company is striving for is a process,“and in its current (rather  
Patterson adds that the building site,  
continued on page 28  
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USGlass, Metal & Glazing | December 2016  
www.usglassmag.com  
NconetwinuseAd nalysis: TECHNOLOGY  
particularly one involving tall building  
construction, is a challenging place for  
innovation.“And automation on a build-  
ing site qualif es as innovation,” he says.  
Start with the typical urban density and  
the diff culty in getting materials to the  
site, the lack of storage and staging area  
on site.Then there is this mash-up of dif-  
ferent interests and motivations … the  
owner, architect, contractor and future  
occupant. There’s also a convergence of  
different trades,each employing uniquely  
ingrained practices involving different  
materials and systems. The result is a  
garment with many seams; seamless  
processes are far easier to automate, and  
the results more effective.”  
While the construction industry may  
be slow to change, processes that can  
help improve eff ciency and safety, are  
worth keeping an eye on.  
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28  
USGlass, Metal & Glazing | December 2016  
www.usglassmag.com