Researchers at the University of Stuttgart develop a lightweight timber construction system combining robotic prefabrication with computational design and simulation processes, as well as three-dimensional surveying technologies used in engineering geodesy. In collaboration with Kuka, a manufacturer of industrial robot arms, and the timber construction and engineering company MüllerBlaustein, the partners investigate the potentials of robotic prefabrication in timber construction. Their goal is to develop innovative, performative and sustainable construction systems made from wood, which also expand the repertoire of architectural expression in timber construction.
In the past, timber fabrication processes were focused on either manual work or mass production of single elements. Although these techniques are elaborated and efficient, they are also inflexible. This is the reason for an increasing amount of interest in computational design and fabrication processes, as well as the use of industrial robots. Robotic fabrication substantially expands the range of manufacturing possibilities and offers more freedom for developing innovative, material-oriented and adaptive construction systems.
The University of Stuttgart is active in the research of lightweight structures. In the summer of 2011 the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), together with students at the University of Stuttgart have realized a temporary, bionic research pavilion made of extremely thin plywood. The Research Pavilion demonstrated the constructional and architectural potentials of robotic fabrication in timber construction on a prototypical level.
In the context of a research project funded by the European Union and the state of Baden-Württemberg with an overall budget of 425,000 Euro, these preliminary works are now being translated into a robotically fabricated, lightweight construction system with a practical orientation towards the specific requirements of the building industry. For this purpose, the ICD and ITKE partner up with the Institute of Engineering Geodesy (IIGS) of the University of Stuttgart, as well as industrial robot manufacturer KUKA, timber construction company MüllerBlaustein, Landesbetrieb Forst Baden-Württemberg and the Landesgartenschau Schwäbisch Gmünd 2014.
The investigation of the potentials of robotic fabrication requires the development and application of novel architectural design, planning and simulation processes. A main focus lies on the coherent “digital chain” from the geometry modelling, to the structural analysis and digital fabrication, as well as the subsequent monitoring of tolerances and geometrical deviations. The University of Stuttgart therefore follows an interdisciplinary and integrative approach, which also incorporates the material’s characteristics and processing possibilities. Utilitzing the University’s own robotic fabrication equipment, innovative and practical construction principles are continuously being investigated and further developed into architectural systems.
Reprinted from University of Stuttgart.