Posts tagged with "Robots":

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Australian company aims to build 10 homes this year with autonomous robotic arm

Buzz around robotics in architecture has been steadily building for some time now, though it’s only in the last few years that the technology has seen much real-world action. However, robotic construction technology is seemingly one step closer to the commercial market as Australian company FBR has unveiled plans to bring its robotic bricklaying arm, Hadrian X, out of the testing facility and into the real world. Earlier versions of the Hadrian, which shares the name of the Roman emperor perhaps most famous for his namesake wall that stretched across what is now the United Kingdom, had successfully created buildings in closed environments as early as 2015. This past November, the latest version built a nearly 2,000-square-foot, three-bed, two-bath home in a lab in under three days. After this success, FBR is attempting to take the robot out into the wild, with plans to build ten homes this year. Being billed as “the world’s only fully automated, end-to-end bricklaying solution,” the 100-foot, truck-mounted arm is able to lay as many as 1,000 bricks in a single hour without changing position. It interprets CAD files, calculating required materials on its own, before setting out to make the digital plans a reality. According to a blog post from January 11, FBR has begun preparatory work, including adding additional sensing equipment for weather conditions and the like, for the Hadrian X’s first outdoor build, a three-bedroom home that will be even more complex than the structure built in the last indoor test. Rather than aiming for speed, FBR sees this first build as a chance to “gather as much intel as possible,” in order to make any necessary engineering adjustments and to prepare to launch its autonomous bricklayer for commercial construction use—a business in which the company says there is an “immense” demand for automation. Hoping to make building safer, faster, and less wasteful, CEO Mike Pivac believes that there’s “massive potential for [autonomous building] technology...to shape the way the construction industry operates in the future.”
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A Tesla struck and “killed” a robot at CES—or did it?

It’s either a documented case of robot-on-robot violence or an elaborate self-perpetuating hoax. At the January 7 opening of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a Tesla in “self-driving mode” struck a Russian Promobot, and the event was captured on video. Or did it? The story seemed too good to be true, and touched a nerve over fears that autonomous vehicles could be dangerous (see the case of Uber’s Arizonan test car that got into a fatal crash last March). In the video, a Tesla Model S can be seen cruising by a robot standing curbside, at which point the Promobot falls over and its arm falls off. Promobot’s manufacturer, also called Promobot, posted footage of the incident to Twitter, tagged Elon Musk, and “Promobot was killed by a self-driving Tesla car” racked up over a million views. Promobot claims that its robot was damaged beyond repair and that they would be filing a police report. How did the robot manage to “run off” to the far side of the road without anyone noticing? How did Promobot seem to know that the Tesla was in self-driving mode? Why was the scene being filmed in the first place? The company has thus far been unable to provide answers, but tech writers and Twitter users were quick to point out the inconsistencies in Promobot’s story. Tesla’s cars, while equipped with an “Autopilot” mode that assists drivers on highways, lacks a fully-autonomous self-driving mode. When the driver, George Caldera, was asked for a comment by the Daily Mail, he allegedly told the British tabloid that he had shifted to the passenger seat and handed over control to the vehicle. “I switched this Tesla into a self-driving mode and it started to move. And wow! A robot on the track! I thought the flivver would come round, but it bumped straightly into it! I am so sorry, the robot looks cute. And my sincere apologies to the engineers.” Other than the strange quote, a rope can be seen on the far side of the road near the robot, and Promobot appears to fall over slightly before being passed by the car. Robots and self-driving cars have captured the public’s imagination, but confusion over the capabilities of each have at times also served to confuse. For instance, the robots deployed to ward off homeless people in San Francisco and Waymo’s self-driving cars in Arizona, have both elicited visceral responses from the public. The integration of artificial intelligence into the urban fabric has a long and bumpy road ahead.
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Bionic construction workers may enter job sites by 2020

Within the next two to three years, wearable technology products may become ubiquitous features of the construction job site, increasing worker safety and productivity. Sarcos Robotics, an American robotics company that specializes in creating mechanical devices for military and public safety purposes, has unveiled its robotic exoskeleton design that allows its operator to carry up to 200 pounds for prolonged periods of time. According to BIM+, the full-body robosuit, formally known as the Guardian XO Max, took 17 years and $175 million to research and develop. It is expected to be commercially available by 2020 and could make a construction site look like something out of a sci-fi film. The exoskeleton was made to help reduce strain on the muscles and joints of construction workers engaged in heavy lifting while giving them a dash of super-human strength. Built with a strength amplification of 20 to 1, a 100-pound steel beam will feel more like a 5-pound weight while wearing the suit, noted BIM+. Its entire weight, as well as the weight of the objects being lifted, is transferred through the suit’s bionic arms and legs and to the ground below. To further ease the movement of the suit so that the operator can flexibly bend, twist, and lift, Sarcos integrated it with a complex network of sensors, enabling the wearer to instinctively control the robot in accordance to their natural reflexes, reducing the need for instruction and training.
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Suspended structure will house research into space-exploring Japanese robots

New York–based firm Clouds Architecture Office has designed a suspended research facility for AVATAR X, a partnership between ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Japanese space agency, developing space-exploring robots. The levitating building will be at the center of the AVATAR X Lab Oita campus, which will host office and laboratory space for various tech companies invited to participate in the partnership's research, along with a lunar-like landscape for testing remotely-operated vehicles. AVATAR X is focused on developing avatars, specialized robots that humans can direct and manipulate from a remote location, thereby obviating the need for humans to go to space themselves. The floating lab structure will stand nearly 60 feet above the bottom of an artificial crater at the center of the campus. A series of other buildings will complete the campus in Oita prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
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A Danish consortium is advancing the possibilities of concrete formwork

In Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, a consortium of architects, engineers, and manufacturers are advancing the capabilities of concrete construction formwork and advanced design. This effort culminated in a recently unveiled 19-ton prototype dubbed Experiment R.

The project, led by the Aarhus School of Architecture, Odico Formwork Robotics, Aarhus Tech, concrete manufacturer Hi-Con, and Søren Jensen Consulting Engineers, tackles the waste associated with concrete formwork through the use of a novel robotic fabrication method.

How does this new method work and why is it potentially so disruptive? According to the Aarhus School of Architecture, formwork is easily the most expensive aspect of concrete construction, making up to three-quarters of the total cost of a concrete project. Significantly reducing waste associated with the formwork process and the molds themselves boosts environmental performance and the economic feasibility of complex concrete geometries.

The project's new apparatus consists of a heated and electrically powered wire rotating at a speed of approximately 160 feet per second around a carbon fiber frame. This device is mounted atop a robotic arm, which can shape complex detailing. While a polystyrene mold was used for the formwork of Experiment R, the mechanism has the capacity to cut through harder materials such as stone and timber.

Conventional methods of formwork fabrication are significantly more laborious—a typical CNC milling machine is able to process an 11-square-foot surface in approximately three to five hours. In an action that Asbjørn Søndergaard, chief technology officer of Odico Formwork Robotics, refers to as “detailing the whole formwork in one sweep,” the new technology is able to process that same surface area in 15 seconds. Strikingly, this timescale is applicable to both straightforward and advanced design formwork.

The 19-ton Experiment B prototype, installed adjacent to Aarhus's Marselisborg Lystbådehavn in July 2018, is an extreme example of what can be achieved with this new method, displaying future possibilities of construction. According to Søndergaard, it is the hope of the consortium that the highly optimized concrete formwork is translatable and ultimately adopted for everyday projects such as minor infrastructural works and standard residential or commercial development.
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Knotted installation proposes ways to reduce timber waste

When a tree is harvested for wood, what happens to the pieces that aren’t ramrod straight? An installation designed by Cornell University’s Robotic Construction Laboratory (RCL) proposes an answer to that question and has used robotic fabrication to build a self-supporting structure from rejected wood cuts. LOG KNOT was commissioned as part of Cornell’s Council for the Arts 2018 Biennial and installed on Cornell’s Agriculture Quad on August 22 of 2018, where it will remain until December 8. The theme of this year’s Biennial is “Duration: Passage, Persistence, Survival." The closed-loop form of LOG KNOT, the interplay of a traditional material, wood, and a high-tech fabrication process, and the eventual silvering of the structure’s untreated timber, all directly address those points. On an AN visit to Cornell’s main Ithaca campus, RCL director Sasa Zivkovic (also of HANNAH) walked up and down the structure to demonstrate its strength. LOG KNOT was formed by harvesting irregular trees that would be normally passed over from Cornell’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest, 3-D scanning each, and using their shapes to design a self-tensioning structure. Using a CNC mill, the logs were then cut into segments that would optimize the amount of stress they would experience, and joining notches were cut into each end. Thanks to the precision of the computer-controlled mill, the final structure was erected in-situ by hand, says Zivkovic. The RCL team was able to install LOG KNOT by having one person hold up a log segment while the next bolted it into place, all without the use of a crane. The final effect is of a single extruded log, even though LOG KNOT was built using two different species of wood. Only 35 percent of the wood taken from most trees is used in construction, typically the tree’s straight trunk. LOG KNOT, much as with the wooden portion of HANNAH’s forthcoming Corbel-Bacon Cabin in Ithaca, was built by using the natural contours of the trees to form the structure. While LOG KNOT may be a temporary installation, ultimately the RCL wants to use the same technique to cut back on wood waste in a way that creates aesthetic possibilities.
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Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative are among 2018 ACADIA Award winners

ACADIA, or the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, established the ACADIA Awards of Excellence to recognize outstanding individuals and practices that think critically about the impact and possibilities of computer-aided design. This year, the ACADIA Awards recipients, including Mónica Ponce de León and Oyler Wu Collaborative, will present their work at the conference titled Recalibration: On Imprecision and Infidelity at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City from October 18–20. Dean of Princeton University School of Architecture Mónica Ponce de León won the Teaching Award of Excellence. Ponce de León is a Venezuelan-American architect who is also a renowned educator. She is the founding principal of MPdL Studio, which has officesin New York, Boston, and Ann Arbor. Prior to her deanship at Princeton, she was dean of University of Michigan’s Taubman College and a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). The awards committee commended her for the “integration of digital technologies into architectural education.” Jenny Wu and Dwayne Oyler, partners at Oyler Wu Collaborative, were awarded with the Digital Practice Award of Excellence. The L.A.-based, award-winning firm is widely recognized for its expertise in material research and digital fabrication. The firm is known for projects such as The Exchange in Columbus, IN, the 2013 Beijing Biennale installation named The Cube, and their installations and pavilions with SCI-Arc. The partners are both currently teaching at SCI-Arc and Harvard GSD. Other awards included the Innovative Academic Program Award of Excellence, given to the Institute of Advanced Architecture Catalonia; the Innovative Research Award of Excellence bestowed upon NVIDIA robotics researcher Dr. Madeline Gannon; and the Society Award of Excellence won by Association for Robots in Architecture co-founders Sigrid Brell-Cokcan and Johannes Braumann. Check out the complete list of winners here.
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Swiss researchers use robots to build complex timber structures

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, are giving timber construction a mechanical leg up with the introduction of prefabricated, robotically-assembled timber frame housing. Together with Erne AG Holzbau, a contracting firm that specializes in timber, researchers at the institute’s Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication have developed Spatial Timber Assemblies, a system for digitally fabricating and constructing complex forms from timber. After a model of the structure has been laid out, robotic arms mounted in the ceiling of the assembly chamber are capable of building the required parts as well as putting them together. First, one arm picks up a beam and holds it while a human trims the piece into the proper size and shape. Then, a second robot arm pre-drills the holes needed for attaching the beam to the structure; finally, both robot arms work together to precisely place the beam as a human attaches it. Thanks to algorithms developed by the researchers, the arms are able to constantly recalculate their location in space and how to move forward without bumping into each other (or humans on the job site). A major advantage of Spatial Timber Assemblies is that the structures built this way carry their load-bearing capacity structurally, and don’t require reinforcing plates or any additional steel. If the overall design changes during construction, researchers are able to calculate a new, optimized framing solution using load-distribution algorithms. The system is more than theoretical. ETH researchers are currently using it to assemble six unique modules, which will join to frame the top two floors of the experimental DFAB HOUSE in Dübendorf, a suburb of Zurich. Once installed on site, both floors will have distinct rooms across 328 square feet of floor space. The final design, which uses 487 individual beams, will be wrapped in a clear plastic facade so that the underlying timber structure can remain exposed. Advancements in robotic construction are advancing rapidly, and ETH researchers have been developing robots that weld, spray concrete, and stack bricks to create forms that would have been difficult to build previously. And if the ETH needs help decorating the interior of their research house, robots can now assemble IKEA furniture, too.
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Autodesk puts R&D first with its BUILD Space in Boston

Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.  Located on the first two floors of a concrete-framed former army base in South Boston, Autodesk’s BUILD Space (BUILD stands for building, innovation, learning, and design), which opened in 2016, has become one of the software company’s best tools for keeping up with architecture’s hyper-speed technology changes. The cavernous 34,000-square-foot facility, whose adaptive reuse was carried out by Boston and New York-based SGA, contains two chief components: First, it houses every piece of digital manufacturing equipment under the sun, from CNC routers and multi-axis robots to microelectronics, metal fabrication tools, and a giant crane; second, it hosts over 70 organizations and 500 people, including architecture and design firms, start-ups, and universities, who use the facilities, supported by Autodesk’s software engineers. In return, Autodesk gets to make important new contacts and learn how to position its software for the coming years. “By investigating these technologies with these teams, it gives us a view of what may be coming, and what we need to start thinking about,” said Rick Rundell, Autodesk’s senior director, who has carefully curated the community with his colleagues. “I could hire a team of 30 researchers to use this equipment,” said Rundell. “Instead, I have 500 researchers that I’ve been able to curate. They’re doing their own work, but it keeps us in touch in a way that would be much harder otherwise.” The word has gotten out, encouraging the company, with SGA, to grow the space by another floor. “We get five or six calls a week,” noted Rundell, who has hosted researchers from the Middle East, all over Europe, and the far corners of the U.S. “We only review the most promising.” To prepare the space for all this activity, SGA implemented some R&D of its own, employing carbon fiber supports to help brace the building after it made large cuts through the thick concrete floors, and using the facility’s crane to haul in extra-large items. The firm needed to install new electrical and HVAC on top of what the building already had in order to support the teams’ extraordinary infrastructure needs. Autodesk, whose Boston software team works on the building’s sixth floor (also designed by SGA), has opened a handful of similar innovation facilities, each catered to a different aspect of digital design and manufacturing. The San Francisco office, which hosts Autodesk researchers as well as independent ones, focuses on micro-factory models, the Toronto office looks at artificial intelligence and generative design, and the Birmingham, England, office centers on advanced manufacturing. “We know this is happening, but we’re seeking to learn more,” said Rundell.

Some of the residents include

Perkins+Will

The architecture firm investigated new framing systems for mass timber.

Bechtel Corporation

The engineering company explored inflatable shading devices.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT students have created self-deploying fabric canopies that can be dropped via aircraft.

Construction Robotics

This construction manufacturer is developing a system for robotically constructing masonry walls.

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Robots prevail in our society, but what roles can they really play?

Amelie Klein is a curator at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and she organized the show Hello, Robot. Design between Human and Machine, a centerpiece of the Vienna Biennale. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) sat down with Klein to discuss robots and the speculation that comes along with them. The Architect’s Newspaper: What role does speculation play in your new exhibition Hello, Robot., which is on view now as part of the Vienna Biennale? Amelie Klein: Well, it is funny because dealing with robots is inherently dealing with a lot of speculation. But our definition of “robot” is very broad, so it is not always so clear. What is a robot? Architect Carlo Ratti says there are three criteria: A robot must have sensors that gather; intelligence that interprets; and actuators, or tools, that produce a reaction. This is slightly different than what we usually consider to be a robot, which is more about doing something physical or having artificial intelligence. But if we look at the smartphone as a robot, we are not in the speculative; we are talking about the real. However, at the same time, the stuff we see that resembles science fiction robots is built to work for like five days, usually at a fair next to a highly sophisticated technician who will help make it run. So in that regard, it is not really as advanced as we might think. If you look at what is around, it is mostly all super fragile and doesn’t work at all. So robotics today is inherently speculative. But what about design? What role does design play in realizing new futures? Bruce Sterling always says, “Science fiction is never about the future, it is always about the present.” Speculation is looking at the present and taking it one step further. Paola Antonelli once gave a presentation in the mid-’90s about the future of work. She had commissioned a piece to Hella Jongerius, who came up with a bed with a screen built into the piece of furniture. Today, that is ridiculous to think of having [a bed with] a built-in screen, but at the same time we all work in bed. So people are articulating these ideas in a way that corresponds to our own reality today. Since the modernism movement, we have had this fetish of function—as if functionality is what makes design. I don’t think this is a very useful concept for what design can offer. Design practices like Dunne + Raby and Superflux use speculative design to talk about how we deal with our physical environment now. They are asking some very important questions, which has liberated design from this fetish of functionality. Do you see the same level of speculative thinking in architecture? There is certainly speculative thinking, such as Greg Lynn’s work or the Vertical Village. Archigram and Ant Farm were also highly speculative. In general, in the 1970s there were radical architects, but maybe this is not so prevalent anymore. What we have found in our research for this show is really well-researched architecture that isn’t necessarily speculative, it‘s just real—such as parametricism. We had this moment when all these architects came up with a new aesthetic that was born from the digital. But now people are really bored with that and they are looking at what else we can do with that technology. If you look at what Ratti is doing, he says that the medieval city will always look like the medieval city, but we will just use it differently. What is really new is actually invisible. The same is true for design. We might have new gadgets, but it might be more about how we interact with these objects, not how things look. It is interesting. It is almost impossible to build architecture that relates to technology, because it ends up obsolete with a few years and must be retrofit. Achim Menges is dealing with some of these issues at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction. He is asking, “What does it mean to have larger cities, and how will we deal with having to construct more buildings?” It is less about speculation; it is very much about nuts and bolts in a very architectural way. He is thinking about how we can use architecture like nature uses material. For example, every building is built to carry maximum weight, which is a waste of material. He looks at how we can save material. How much room for innovation is there? So we can speculate about new ways of making? I rarely get excited about a chair, unless it totally rethinks how to make a chair, such as the CurVoxels 3-D Printed Cantilever Chair, which is based on an algorithm that feeds into a robot that prints it in the air. It does for furniture design what Menges is doing for architecture. CurVoxels Design Research Group took the Panton Chair by Vernor Panton and tested a new method [of fabrication] with a very traditional chair. It is like the old analogy of the iron bridge, where it looks like a wooden bridge, even though it’s made of this new material. We are figuring out still what the possibility of these materials is and what that might mean for making and what that might mean for aesthetics. So how can design speculate about the city? One thing that is very fresh and prescient is a project by Dunne & Raby called United Micro Kingdoms, where they reimagined how four communities would live. For example, the digitarians would have a society that was quite authoritarian. It is also kind of neoliberal, as they are obsessed with cost efficiency, etc. It raises issues that we might not be thinking about, like how do we pay for autonomous vehicles? We may not own these self-driving cars—we might have to share and rent them. We have these great visions of the city without congestion and everything is running smoothly, but it likely won’t happen that way. We will probably see something more like what Dunne & Raby came up with, which is very easyJet-like, with bare-bones amenities. If you pay more, it might be luxurious with more privacy and speed. This is how we live today, so why would it change? There is hope. Superflux was invited by one of the Arab Emirates to give a presentation about potential cities of the future. They suggested that cars must be given up, and these oil sheiks, who are filthy rich, said, “Forget it! I am not going to do that, my son is not going to do that!” Superflux anticipated this and, working with scientists and physicists, created a series of air samples that illustrated what the air would smell like if we don’t change our present habits. It worked to convince them. The sheiks didn’t want their sons [sic] to live in air like that. This can be very powerful, if designers look to social progress rather than simply working within the neoliberal or market frameworks. All this technology is being sold as changing the world, but how are Airbnb or Uber changing the world? They are undermining conventions in society that we have worked for centuries to install. They are not saving the world, they are taking us steps backwards, and it is causing disenchantment and disappointment. Critical thinking is all we have to avoid these hyper-efficient futures. The experiments might be inefficient, but we need that and we need speculation to move forward.
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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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Gramazio Kohler Research wants to build the future using robots

The buildings of the future—if the team at Gramazio Kohler Research (GKR) has its way—will be built by robots. Not just one type of robot but many different kinds, each programmed to perform a different type of work, with a different type of material, and as a result, generate a different type of structure. The researchers—led by professors Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler of ETH Zurich—are moved, according to the lab’s mission statement, to “examine the changes in architectural production requirements that result from introducing digital manufacturing techniques.” This research-and-development effort focuses on anticipating and ultimately generating the construction processes of our robot-filled future through interdisciplinary collaboration. GKR’s experiments are part of an effort by the so-called ETH Domain—a research network of universities including ETH Zurich and other independent research institutions based in Switzerland—to prototype and develop new technologies using a research-centered approach. The research lab’s recent efforts have been put toward developing the so-called DFAB house, a project undertaken by eight ETH Zurich research professors that aims to construct the first-ever digitally planned, designed, and constructed structure. The project will test several of GKR’s research endeavors at full scale, in concert with the other teams’ research, and is expected to be completed in 2018. Jammed Architectural Structures Rock Print is a robotically constructed architectural installation built from “low-grade granular material,” a focus of the lab’s research into jammed architectural structures erected in nonstandard shapes. The initiative focuses on the robotic aggregation of small rocks that are “quite literally crammed together in such a way that the mass holds its form and shape like a solid,” according to the project website. To produce the installation, a robotic arm drizzles an adhesive polymer thread over alternating layers of rocks that ultimately become structurally sound. The bulbous column that results can be deconstructed by pulling the thread away so that its constituent components can be reused. The technique was shown off at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial as a dynamic architectural installation in partnership with the Self-Assembly Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Complex Timber Structures The team has also worked with wood construction techniques in an effort to not only cut down on wood waste but also find useful applications for Switzerland’s abundant softwood resources. The Complex Timber Structures experiment grafts together precisely cut lengths of wood using a variety of joinery techniques—including glue-impregnation—to create tessellated, geometric forms. The three-dimensional truss structures link together to create comparatively strong arrangements that are also lightweight in nature. The project was developed as part of the SNSF National Research Programme in collaboration with the Bern University of Applied Sciences Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering. Mesh Mold Metal In conjunction with the Agile & Dexterous Robotics Lab of Professor Jonas Buchlihas, the research team has also tackled automated construction of doubly curved reinforced concrete walls with its Mesh Mold Metal project. The technique utilizes a robotic arm to splice and spot-weld quarter-inch-thick gridded rebar segments into place to create a rigid cage that can then be filled with concrete. The robot’s human assistant loads the rebar into the robot’s capable arms and applies the concrete by hand while the machine stipples the bits of metal together. The resulting S-shaped wall is finished with shotcrete for a smooth surface. On-Site Robotic Construction Rather than crafting meticulously curved walls, the On-Site Robotic Construction technique attempts to automate “nonstandard construction tasks” like stacking bricks in uneven arrangements. Researchers devised a robotic arm that utilizes a collection of cameras to examine and manipulate nonstandard arrangements of objects that are then moved into new configurations. The “adaptive building” technique was developed as part of Switzerland’s National Competence Centre of Research Digital Fabrication initiative.