Autodesk University Las Vegas 2019 was another incredible year of thrilling product showcases and announcements, inspiring keynotes and sessions, and empowering insights from industry thought leaders highlighting the future of construction, design, engineering, manufacturing, media, and more.
During the conference, we heard many conversations about the future of the built world – from AI and machine learning to industrialized construction. But in the Expo Hall, we didn’t just hear about transformative innovations in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector – we were able to immerse ourselves in the technology changing how we design, make, and build the world around us. And to put things lightly – we were impressed.
Here are some of the most powerful and cutting edge technologies at AU 2019 that are shaping the future of construction.
1. Best in Show Artificial Intelligence
If you attended the AEC Keynote at AU 2019, you saw there was an unexpected guest to take the stage – and no, we’re not referencing one of the impactful speakers. Spot, popularly recognized as the robotic dog from its makers, Boston Dynamics, delighted keynote attendees.
However, even more impressive than its quick main stage appearance, was how the robot was being showcased by two companies in the Expo Hall.
- HoloBuilder, a company that creates fast and secure 360° reality capturing solutions for construction, announced the launch of SpotWalk, now available through an early adopter program. The integrated app enables users to teach the robot a path through the construction site that will then be automatically documented. The spherical images collected will be organized and managed in HoloBuilder’s enterprise-ready web application and analyzed using SiteAI, HoloBuilder’s artificial intelligence engine. Customers can join the SpotWalk early adopter program by filling out a form on the Boston Dynamics website.
- FARO Technologies, a maker of computer-aided measurement and imaging devices and software, showcased how they are also partnering with Boston Dynamics. By combining the autonomous robot with 3D laser scanning technology, FARO highlighted how they could potentially revolutionize the way documentation and data gathering is accomplished, while maintaining a simple and easily integrated workflow. All this is a step forward in minimizing errors, while increasing automated real-time information sharing for all collaborators.
2. 3D Printed Materials
3D printing has long been a hot topic in the construction industry. The technology has promising benefits, including reducing waste, saving costs, improving efficiency, and enhancing quality. While many have discussed the potential impact, few companies have implemented the technology on a large-scale basis. But at AU 2019, we saw how 3D technology is being used on large-scale projects today.
Royal BAM Group and materials company Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix gave attendees an inside look at the inner workings of Europe’s first industrial and commercial 3D printing factory for concrete elements. Equipped with a robotic arm, the companies exhibited how they are 3D printing structural elements to build affordable, faster, more durable, bespoke, and form-free structures. Currently, the factory is building the longest 3D-printed bridge in the world for the city of Nijmegen in The Netherlands.
And just for fun, this is what happens when robots meet!
3. Next-Generation VR
Similar to 3D printing, virtual reality technology in construction has received significant buzz over the years. Nonetheless, when it comes to implementation, many construction companies have been holding off when it comes to adoption. However, from what we saw at AU 2019, it’s more apparent than ever that the technology available is at its most sophisticated level yet with the power to be a game-changer. We saw two companies on the leading edge of VR in the Expo Hall: IrisVR and InsiteVR.
IrisVR makes easy-to-use software that brings 3D models into VR for design review, model, coordination, and clash detection. Currently, the software supports Navisworks and Revit (among others) and is compatible with Oculus Rift/Quest and Windows MR, and Vive.
InsiteVR brings multi-user virtual reality to review and coordination meetings. The company makes it easy for construction projects to leverage VR to spot potential issues in BIM as early as possible. The software supports both desktop and standalone VR, and integrates with BIM 360, Navisworks, Revit, and more, in addition to being compatible with Oculus devices and Vive.
4. The Future of Transportation
In addition to Spot, the AEC Keynote featured another special guest. Josh Giegel, Co-Founder and CTO of Virgin Hyperloop One shared progress on the first truly new form of transportation in a century – Hyperloop One. During AU, the company also announced an exciting strategic partnership with Autodesk to explore route optimization and improve engineering and construction workflows.
Virgin Hyperloop One signals an exciting move forward for innovation in transportation and the future of construction. Attendees at AU 2019, also had the opportunity to see the technology for themselves in the Expo Hall.
5. Automated Equipment with an Impact
Construction materials account for an estimated 40% of U.S. solid waste production. With high-tech equipment and automation, companies are attempting to reduce waste while also increasing productivity. Howick is one of these companies making a big impact through innovative uses of their rollforming machines, with projects ranging from factory-produced modular housing units to framing systems for site-cast concrete parking structures.
During their ongoing two-year residency at the Autodesk Technology Center in Boston, Howick has collaborated with StrucSoft, the makers of an interoperability workflow, to develop new ways of linking digital models to their automated rollforming equipment. As part of their residency, the team worked with Autodesk and a group of local contractors on the automated onsite construction of the customer briefing space within the technology center. Working together, the team eliminated almost all framing waste and achieved a significant reduction in the project timeline.
At AU 2019, Howick FRAMA 3200 stunned attendees with its innovative rollforming technology, further demonstrating the exciting, and more automated, future of construction.
Watch Howick Frama 3200 in action at AU 2019, here.
6. Computing Built for Construction
Everyone can relate to the pain experienced when their computer slows down. Processing power is incredibly important, especially when it comes to BIM projects. At AU 2019, we were blown away by the computing technology brought to the Expo Hall by big-players like Dell Technologies, HP, NVIDIA, and Lenovo.
But when it came to computing specially made for BIM and the demands of the field, we were very impressed with BIMBOX. The company creates computers specifically designed to solve real issues in the AEC industry. Two products that stood out to us that incorporates both extreme processing power and speed include, Raptor II and Stryker II.
7. Mobile Laser Scanning
Laser scanning technology is getting more advanced, accessible, and easier to use. Laser scanning, also known as high-definition surveying (HDS) or reality capture, is a means of using a laser to map an area with high accuracy. On a construction site, this data helps keep an accurate digital record of an object or space as it pertains to the project. In the Expo Hall at AU 2019, we saw several exhibitors revealing how the technology is more mobile and accurate than ever.
For instance, ClearEdge3D showed us how fast its mobile laser scanning could map massive facilities. The company cites that its product, which can be comfortably worn like a backpack, could map 250,000 square feet in around 15-20 minutes.
If you don’t want to wear a scanner, Paracosm’s PX-80 handheld lidar scanner is equally convenient and impressive. The device can capture both indoor and outdoor environments and more than 100,000 square feet of space in a single day – with full color.
8. Connected Construction
If you attended the Connect & Construct Summit at Autodesk University or had the chance to attend the AEC keynote, you heard about the announcement of Autodesk Construction Cloud. The connected technology ecosystem that brings together advanced technology, a builders network, and predictive insights – across the project lifecycle.
But what does this new standard of connected construction look like? If you had a chance to stop by the Construction Quad in the Expo Hall, you were likely enamored by a large interactive wall showcasing the connected jobsites of the future. While the video below hardly does the display justice, you can learn more about the future of connected construction jobsites on this blog: Step Inside the Jobsite of the Future.
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