Demolition robots can make work sites safer and help jobs go faster.
Demolition robots, like those made by Husqvarna, are one of the surest signs that technology is making its way into construction, an industry long recognized for being slow to adopt new ways of working. There is no doubt that robots are being welcomed with open arms. After all, demolition is tough work – it's time-consuming and can be quite dangerous – and jam-packed build schedules and tight locations can make it even tougher to get the job done.
Power: Controlled from a distance
"The most exciting way that demolition robots can assist human workers on the job site is through safety," said Graham Leslie, director at JBKLabs, which specializes in technology solutions for the construction industry. Leslie pointed out that demolition work is often required in extremely compact areas, hindered by tight stairwells, low ceilings and floor debris. These areas are especially challenging for humans to work in.
"Demolition robots typically have a relatively small core structure because they don't require the cabin or protection for a human operator," Leslie said. "That small core allows them to navigate into spaces previously inaccessible to mechanized equipment and allow humans to operate the robots through tight spaces and over uneven debris from a safe distance."
Must-have demolition robot features
The key features of a robot determine what the machine can do and what size of spaces it can fit into. You'll want to make sure your robot is compact and robust and comes with a variety of attachments for maximum breakage capability.
- Power: As with any machine, efficiency and power count. Demolition robots are often categorized by their hitting or breaking power; small size is only attractive if it can do the job.
- Size: Consider the height and width of the robots you're evaluating, and compare them to the size of the spaces you typically work within. How compact of a machine do you require? Consider your needs not only for maneuverability, but also for operator visibility.
- Attachments: How far can the robot's arms reach, and what is its turning capability? What attachment options and accessories does it have that allow you to work within different environments and tackle a variety of needs?
Before you buy: Things to consider
Demolition robots can typically be leased or purchased. Leasing may be attractive for a variety of reasons, such as the ability to choose the appropriate robot for your specific projects and to share a lease with multiple business partners. If you're looking to buy, be prepared to invest upward of $100,000 per robot.
Before you make that level of investment, ask the right questions, especially if this is your first robot. Here are a few things to consider.
- Reputation and knowledge: You'll want to make sure you're investing in the right machine size for the majority of your jobs. Look for a vendor who can guide you and who has a solid reputation in the industry for their technical expertise.
- Assistance: What happens if something goes wrong? How many parts does the vendor typically keep in stock, and is there a help line to call if you're in a pinch?
- Maintenance: What are the maintenance requirements, and what does that look like from a logistics perspective?
- Ease of use: Don't invest in a machine without a demo, and be observant – are the tools and controls intuitive? Talk to other owners about what they think too.
- Attachments: What attachments for additional functions are available, and how can you customize the machine for your needs?
Don't forget the basics
Some planning needs come down to what's basic but necessary. Lars Lindgren, president of Brokk Inc., reminds clients to remember their power source as they plan for their demolition robot.
"Electric machines need a power supply, and in most commercial applications, 480-volt is not available, so the customer must have either a diesel generator or a transformer that can step up 208 to 240 volts of ample amperage," Lindgren said.
He also stressed having "good power cords. The most important thing is the power cord management. Keep good power to the machine and there are very few problems."
Finally – and this is a big one – you must invest in training.
Lindgren can't stress this enough: "The most successful companies have highly trained and dedicated operators that have stayed with them for years. A good operator is the best investment a company can do after the machine. A good operator will both ensure that the job is done right and profitably, and keep maintenance and repair costs to a minimum."