Posts tagged with "Automation":

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New report shows that the modular construction business is booming

According to the recently released Commercial Construction Index (CCI), an economic indicator that tracks trends in the commercial construction industry, demand for modular construction is on the rise, and general contractors expect the trend to continue. Modular construction uses prefabricated and preassembled building components that are built in a factory and shipped to the job site for assembly. They meet the same standards and use the same materials as a traditional building but, advocates say, they offer a range of additional benefits.  As reported by The National Real Estate Investor, over the last five years, the modular construction business has doubled in size to become an $8 billion industry. What amounts for the new interest? Previous studies have shown that increased productivity and lower costs are driving contractors to embrace modular construction. Now, with materials costs continuing to rise around the world, these potential savings have become even more critical. But they're not the only issue. The CCI study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed contractors reported eight clear benefits of modular construction: increases in efficiency, productivity, safety, and quality; reductions in risk, cost, material waste, and construction times—an particularly important benefit for revenue-earning buildings whose owners want to start collecting rent as soon as possible. A few of those benefits go hand-in-hand with one another, but the report is promising for the industry. The nonprofit Modular Building Institute also predicts an increase in modular construction over the next few years. However, in their view, it's not just the above-mentioned benefits driving change, it's also the accelerating loss of skilled labor that will push the industry further toward industrialization and automation. The reports are a potential boon for the industry, which hit some bumps during what might be called its “start-up” phase a few years ago. Notably, 461 Dean Street in Brooklyn’s Pacific Park development hit setbacks that included manufacturing disruptions, disputes, and delays that ultimately lead to a four-year construction period and giving it, as AN wrote at the time, “the dubious honor of having one of the most languid construction timelines for a tower of its size in city history.” The plan for more modular buildings in Pacific Park was abandoned, but, after the project got back on track, the building now stands as a model of the potential and the pitfalls of modular construction.   The stories that have since followed have suffered from fewer hiccups, like the 21-story CitizenM New York. The tallest modular hotel in the United States, the CitizenM is composed of 210 modular units, each housing two hotel rooms. Housing, hotels, and hospitals, which depend on the repetition of identical rooms and spaces, are the areas that stand to benefit the most and, in turn, drive the growth of modular construction.   What could stall the rise of modular construction? Upfront costs can be large and securing loans can be difficult. And although the manufacturing technology is becoming more sound, the much-touted savings aren’t as significant as predicted yet. That could change as demand rises, as more factories are built to produce modular components, and as other factors, like the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce shipping costs and advancements in BIM make it easier to build stronger partnerships between architect, fabricator, and contractor. The last hurdle? A lack of awareness. More than 70 percent of general contractors say their reason for not using modular construction is that clients aren't asking for them and architects aren’t designing them.
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Researchers and students at ETH Zurich print complex columns for dance festival

For the Origen Festival in Riom, Switzerland students in the Masters of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication program at ETH Zurich, guided by researcher Ana Anton, 3D printed nine unique, computationally-designed columns with a new layered extrusion printing process developed at the university over the past year and a half. ETH students and researchers created nine unique, 9-foot-tall concrete columns that came together as an installation titled Concrete Choreography. The arrangement of undulating columns served as an environment for dance performances. “The columns create the stage and set for the artists to dance in between, in front, around, to hide, climb and interact in many ways with this unique, monolithic architecture,” explained Anton. “Each column has its own particular expressivity and dynamics, just like the dancers.” The students used an automated, formwork-less process, called Concrete Extrusion 3D Printing (CE3DP), a printing method that continuously deposits and extrudes concrete in .2-inch-thick layers to create complex geometries. Anton has been experimenting with the process for a year and a half, as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between ETH's Digital Building Technologies and the chair of Physical Chemistry of Building Materials. Anton says that for the column’s nine unique forms, “students worked towards finding unique designs suitable to this fabrication method, meaning more fluid geometries locally detailed using material-driven ornament,” going on to say that the geometries they worked with are only possible because of the high-resolution printing of CE3DP. ETH’s Digital Building Technologies lab claims this method comes “with the advantage of precise, digitized shape customization [that is] ideal for the creation of freeform shapes that would be impossible to produce with any other technology on the market.” CE3DP also has the added advantage of being fast; the columns each took just 1.5-to–2.5 hours to create. According to Anton, “The forest of columns should work both as performance space but also as an outdoor installation which invites visitors to explore the garden before and after the dance.”

Robotic Storage Design

A new product design contest on Desall.com is now available: Pharmathek and Desall invite you to design the new case of the Sintesi robotized warehouse dedicated to the pharmacy world.

Pharmathek is looking for the new design of the case of the Sintesi robotized warehouse and of the automatic loader Pharmaload, installed inside the pharmacies and developed to facilitate the pharmacist and her/his collaborators in the daily management of the medicines and their data.

For more info: https://bit.ly/PharmathekContest

Contest timeline

Upload phase: 28th June 2019 – 03rd October 2019 (1.59 PM UTC)

Client Vote: from 03rd October 2019

Winner announcement: approximately by the end of December 2019

Total awards

€4000

Participation is free of charge and open to all creative people at least 18 years or older.

PHARMATHEK

Pharmathek is a company that designs, produces and installs robotic storage systems for pharmacies.

Born within the Th.Kohl Group, a company with a 100 years of experience in the pharmacy sector, since its foundation the company has worked to offer its customers increasingly innovative and high-performance solutions, able to respond better and better to the needs of the contemporary pharmacy.

Among the values ​behind Pharmathek solutions there are efficiency, speed and reliability.

But even before that, flexibility: the Pharmathek robotic storage systems can be configured according to the needs of the individual company.

This is why Pharmathek customers include not only pharmacies but also hospital pharmacies and medicine wholesalers.

DESALL

Desall.com is an open innovation platform dedicated to design and innovation, that offers to companies a participatory design tool involving in the creative process an international community coming from all over the world. To date Desall gathers more than 100000 creatives from over 210 countries and has collaborated with international brands like Luxottica, Whirlpool, Electrolux, ALESSI, Enel, Leroy Merlin, KINDER, Barilla, illy, Chicco, Mondadori and many more.

Thanks to the mingling of different cultural backgrounds and creative industries, the Desall community is able to provide high-quality project solutions for every product development phase requested by the client, from concept to product design, from naming to packaging.

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Brooklyn-based startup is using robots for rebar assembly

Two Brooklyn-based construction entrepreneurs began their business with a simple observation: steel rebar, used in concrete construction throughout the world, isn't always easy to work with. Ian Cohen and Daniel Blank noticed this when they were watching wind turbines being erected. “Watching the process of people manually moving these huge, heavy objects looked dangerous and difficult,” Cohen explained. Often made from scrap metal, rebar is a “really sharp, dirty material for humans to interact with.” They pivoted their URBAN-X accelerated startup, Toggle, which they founded two-and-a-half years ago with a focus on renewable energy, to the even more fundamental work of making the production of reinforced concrete faster and safer through automation. Rebar steel is “traditionally manually picked up and erected into cages and shaped to hold reinforced concrete structures in place,” explained Cohen. These cages may be as long as 50 feet. That’s hard work for humans but is exactly the kind of job robots are suited for: taking very heavy things and moving them precisely. Using customized industrial robots, Toggle made modifications that allow the automated arms to “achieve bespoke movements.” The design-to-build process is also streamlined, with custom software that takes a design file, evaluates types of cages needed, then derives a build sequence, and goes straight into digital fabrication. Currently, Toggle, which is in the early stages of its technology, is using a “cooperative process”—a human and robot working side by side. The robot does the dangerous work and heavy lifting, picking up and manipulating the bars, while the human does just the final wire tying. Toggle is in the process of automating this step as well, aiming to increase productivity over all-human rebar processing by as much as five times while halving the cost. The two also plan on adding a linear track that would allow the robot to produce larger meshes, though currently, they are operating at a fairly substantial maximum of 20 feet. No mere experiment, the robot is currently being put to work, fabricating rebar for projects in New York City and the surrounding area. Part of the plan is to develop a system that works something like vertical farming, Cohen explained, where production happens close to where there is need, minimizing the logistical demands and long-distance transportation and “allowing civil infrastructure to be developed and constructed in the societies that need them most.” New York, of course, is a perfect testing ground with its constant construction. Currently, global labor shortages, including in the U.S., make infrastructure construction expensive according to Cohen. Toggle’s goal is to “reduce cost and accelerate construction projects around the world, all while maximizing safety.” The intent, Cohen says, is not about getting rid of human labor but about “taking work away from humans that is not suited for them and putting them in jobs that are better for humans.”
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San Francisco animal shelter deploys robot to keep away the homeless

The recent deployment of a mobile security robot to the sidewalk outside of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (SPCA) San Francisco chapter has raised questions over what role robots will play in the urban fabric in coming years. The SPCA’s K5 Knightscope security robot, a 5-foot tall, 400-pound ovoid on wheels that can go up to 3 miles per hour, was rented to dissuade local homeless residents from setting up encampments in front of the shelter’s building. Renting the robot only cost $7 an hour, compared to the $14 dollar minimum wage in San Francisco. The Mission District shelter first unveiled the autonomous rolling guard in early November, using it to patrol their parking lots and public sidewalks. Jennifer Scarlett, the S.F. SPCA’s president, told the San Francisco Business Times that the robot’s job was to prevent the homeless from congregating in the area. “We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment,” said Scarlett. Renting an autonomously patrolling robot, especially one that takes up three feet of space on the sidewalk and is designed to shoo people away, has riled up public space advocates and drawn charges that the SPCA is engaging in hostile design. The issue of robots clogging public right-of-ways had grown so contentious in San Francisco that lawmakers recently passed an ordinance limiting the number of robots allowed to roll around the city’s public areas. The clash between autonomous robots and the urban environment reached a fevered pitch in 2017. The same K5-model of security robot caught criticism for plowing over a toddler in Palo Alto, drowning itself in a Washington D.C. fountain, and getting beat up by a drunk man in Mountain View. Even the SPCA’s robot was reportedly pushed over by angry homeless encampment residents at least once. After being warned on December 1st by the city’s Department of Public Works that the SPCA would be fined $1,000 for every day that the K5 operated on a public sidewalk, the shelter has agreed to pull the guard and pass negotiations with the city up to the robot’s manufacturer, Knightscope. While the SPCA had plastered their robot with pictures of dogs in attempt to soften the image of a machine designed to scare people away, the K5 reportedly also “terrified” dogs coming in and out of the shelter.
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Adam Greenfield's new book questions our bright technological future

Technology is never value-neutral, and yet American culture often embraces new technologies as if they do not contain the seeds of every other aspect of American life and were freed of messy political and social consequences. The sort of pervasive technological positivism is inextricably tied to a certain spectrum of political philosophy, namely of the neoliberal and libertarian variety. The technocracy that worried many philosophers in the 20th century has now arrived, and it is potentially scarier than any of them could have even imagined. Adam Greenfield is a leading critical voice on technology. Employed as a consultant for urban planning, design, technology and architectural firms, Greenfield has been in the trenches of emerging technology. He has conducted research for firms like Razorfish and Nokia, and taught at New York University and the London School of Economics. He has been a critical voice among urbanists on the use of urban data and smart cities, and for the past 15 years, he has run the thoughtful and influential blog Speedbird.  In his book-length essay, Against the Smart City (2015), he analyzed the proposals of many (still unrealized) smart cities and projected the dystopias they could become. He took the ephemera, renderings, and brochures at face value, analyzing the technologies and value claims made by the companies promising brightly-rendered automated futures.  His latest book Radical Technologies (2017) allows us to contextualize the present moment of technophilia and how this set of technologies have radically transformed or disrupted everyday life. Chapters are divided up by technologies such as smartphones, automation, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, digital fabrication, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Each chapter takes readers through how each technology works and though the social and political implications that these transformative technologies pose. Throughout the book, Greenfield constructs a complex argument for critical engagement with technologies by laying out the best and worst-case scenarios for each technology. He is at his most convincing, however, in his big-picture skepticism. The zeitgeist of our moment is a general trust in business and technology leaders to change things for the better, and technologies offer an easy fix in place of uncomfortable political compromises. Technology is often used a band-aid in place of policy or to fill the void of ethical debate. We are told that the best one can hope for are nudges for certain types of behavioral improvement as we cheer on far-reaching automation for seamlessness, efficiency, and profit. These “world-changing” technologies rely heavily on the belief that they bring something positive into the world or at least require the trust that their convenience outweighs the consequences. However, they are unleashed onto the world because they support the growth of a post-Fordist capitalism as it accelerates toward a more automated future, one that Greenfield calls the “post-human everyday.” Most early adopters take it in faith that technology creators have our interest and enjoyment in mind. However, the technology sector (like architecture) often doesn't care about its unintended effects. Although Greenfield rarely touches on the specific ways that these technologies inform architectural practice, each of the areas he covers has major implications for our field—whether to open up new job specializations or market opportunities, or how they will radically transform our aesthetic tastes and disrupt our belief systems and ethics. Technology's impact can be seen everywhere from Patrik Schumacher’s declaration of “parametricism as a philosophy” to the way that nearly every large design firm now has a technology wing and research groups, spinning off tech startups wildly into the ether. The ubiquity of digital fabrication, IoT, AR/VR, and smart phones has already reshaped huge portions of the AEC industry and will continue to shape it in technology’s image. Inherent in being a critic of technology is that one can be wildly wrong in a very short amount of time. Technologies often change rapidly (sometimes within months), fall into disuse or disappear as they are superseded. What this means for writing about technology is that observations will easily feel dated. Criticism of technology remains at its most useful when it contextualizes the ways that technology is everyday life—the ways that is it is part of society. Greenfield’s guide to the everyday after the iPhone and technologies like it is an important piece of critical thinking that should resonate widely. Greenfield will be speaking about Radical Technologies in NYC on September 14th-16th. Thursday, September 14th 7-9pm: Verso Loft Friday, September 15th 1pm: Columbia University GSAPP with Laura Kurgan Saturday, September 16th 7-9pm: McNally Jackson Books with Aimee Meredith Cox
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Facades+NYC lab workshops offer hands-on exposure to new technology

It is hard to imagine a better introduction to new digital design and fabrication software than the "Advanced Parametric Modeling: Design to Fabrication" lab workshop at next month's Facades+NYC  conference. Dassault's Jonathan Asher and Zahner's Kyle Watson will co-lead a tutorial in the application of Dassault's 3DEXPERIENCE to building envelopes, combining the perspectives of software developer (Asher) and early adopter (Watson). "First we'll be giving a walkthrough of how to use the software," explained Watson. "Then we'll demonstrate some new features available in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, as well as how it's different" from other automation programs. Rather than passive observers, workshop attendees will be active participants, working through a full facade Asher and Watson will create especially for Facades+NYC. "Our intention is to develop this workshop facade system so it includes everything a typical engineer would be creating for a real facade: fully unfoldable panels, documentation created automatically," said Watson. By the end of the session, attendees will better understand how to leverage automation to generate complex systems. "Since it's our speciality, the focus will be on automation—creating complicated forms and then automating the creation and visualization of multiple panels going into this form." In addition, Asher and Watson will highlight the collaborative potential of Dassault's new platform. "Given that 3DEXPERIENCE is a relatively new software, and we [at Zahner] are among the early adopters, we're getting a lot of chances to experience the collaborative side of the software," said Watson, pointing out that his cooperation with Asher (Asher works from France; Watson, Missouri) exemplifies the easy back-and-forth facilitated by 3DEXPERIENCE. Other lab workshops on offer at Facades+NYC include "Curtain Wall Systems: From Sketch to Completion," taught by Bart Harrington and Richard Braunstein, both of YKK-AP America; "Advanced Facade Analysis, Rationalization, and Production (Grasshopper + Dynamo)," with Thornton Tomasetti CORE Studio's Daniel Segraves; and "Seamless Exchange of Geometry and Data (Grasshopper, Revit, Excel)." For more information and to reserve your space in a lab or dialog workshop, visit the Facades+NYC website.