Robotics & Automation

Japanese Construction Giant Is Making A Massive New Dam Almost Entirely With Robots

According to a report on Nikkei Asian Review Website, a giant dam is being built by robots; the project is led by the Obayashi Corporation, one of the five largest construction companies in Japan.

Located in the Mie Prefecture, in the south-east corner of Japan’s main island, the dam project will be piloting multiple robotic and automation technologies in its construction. The dam, which is due to be completed in March 2023, will be 275.9-feet high (84 meters), and 1,095.8-feet wide (334 meters) upon completion.

Obayashi Corp said the productivity has increased by 10% and eventually building time will be cut by 30% by using the robots.

Japan’s construction company is an aging one, with 35% of the workforce being 55 years old. Companies are now looking for alternate solutions, and this new system is being tested to overcome the shortage of labor.

Humans are still necessary, however, to ensure everything runs smoothly. Apart from that, automation technology is involved in almost every stage of the construction of the concrete dam.

For instance, cranes are fully automated, but for safety reasons, human workers are engaged to oversee the process. Similarly, Obayashi has developed unique robotic machines for pouring concrete, but this work, too, will be monitored by human workers.

Like many others, this dam will be built by using concrete “forms” or slabs. Robots will pour the raw material and afterward will lift the finished, dried, and hardened form. Typically, a group of human workers would work in a coordinated manner, while operating a manual crane to place concrete forms correctly. For this to happen accurately, years of practice and experience is required to acquire the knowledge. However, by developing automated equipment for stacking concrete, the Obayashi dam project will be able to skip this human labor-intensive process.

In the final stages, concrete is poured into the structure to form the body of the dam. Using the systems put in place by the Obayashi Corp, the process will be completed remotely using office computers by controlling the tower cranes pouring down the concrete.

The head of Obayashi’s dam technology unit, Akira Naito, explained to Nikkei Asian Review that they could analyze constant knowledge, by transferring expert techniques to machines. In terms of efficiencies gained through the application of robots to the job, Obayashi says that at 10%, it has so far been modest. Ten percent is still a significant amount while working on a multimillion-dollar project, given that the productivity gains are expected to be considerably more prominent, according to an Obayashi representative.


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