The utilization of precast concrete offers significant benefits in terms of increased material efficiency, safety, labor productivity, and reduced time, cost, and wastage over conventional on-site construction. In the meantime, challenges exist in precast concrete production in the high requirements for dimensional accuracy of precast elements, flexibility and reusability of formwork, and stability of shuttering.
Formwork systems are a critical component of the precast production line, which is also the key to innovation from manual to automated and robotic. Previous studies seldom examined the competitive features of such systems within the context of the building prefabrication process. This paper aims to explore the future development directions of and to identify transferable advanced technologies for, advanced formwork systems in the production of precast concrete building elements. The research was carried out by comparing the conventional and advanced approaches drawing on the case of high-rise buildings in Hong Kong.
The results indicate that automation and robotic technologies offer unique advantages in the betterment of the formwork system. Besides gains in productivity, reliability, and accuracy, the adoption of robotic systems also provides the great benefit of cost-effectiveness owing to the high labor cost and fast-growing market in Hong Kong. However, there also exist barriers to advancing formwork systems for precast, including industry and culture reluctance, high capital costs, and skill shortages.
The findings should contribute to a better understanding of how automated and robotic technologies could advance the formwork systems in precast production, which can further reap the benefits of prefabrication and facilitate innovation in the building industry.