Automated robotic fabrication for temporary architecture

Growing system is a one-year research project by a small team working from the design research laboratory at the AA school of architecture about additive manufacturing, robotic fabrication and computational architecture design. 

It focuses on utilising robots as intelligent construction assistants by integrating 3D scanning system and real-time structure generative and analysis algorithms, thus achieving higher structural, material efficiency, combining design and construction into a single creative process, thus creating a new prototype for architecture design and construction.

Vertical 3D printing with robotic arm.

Vertical 3D printing is a method the team developed by taking advantage of the flexibility of 6 degree-of-freedom industrial robotic arms. They use Polycaprolactone as printing material which could solidify quickly under cold air flow. This method allowed them to quickly construct large-scale complex free-from structuresin significantly shorter time comparing to most conventional layer-printing methods.

Generative Algorithm
Rather than designing in top-down method, the team developed their own structure analysis algorithm to generate the structure which is optimised for robotic arm 3D printing. The algorithm is based on a biology reference: Physarum polycephalum, a kind of slime mold which could collectively create efficient nutrients transport network. They simulate the emergent behavior of this slime mold and developed it into dynamic 3D structure generator.
Real-Scale Fabrication
The software developed for the project has 3 major features: scanning data reconstruction, real-time structure generative & analysis algorithm, robotic choreography planer (including Inverse Kinematic Solver, Collision detector). Using this software platform, a 2-meter-high shell structure was successfully built with a Kuka KR30 Industrial Robotic Arm. During the fabrication process, they used an Xbox Kinect depth camera to reconstruct the printed geometry and physical environment back into digital simulation. Thus the deviation of printed geometry was able to be captured, helping their algorithm to perform dynamical changes according to real-time structure analysis.


Architecture Implementation
By demonstrating the prototype, the team speculated about an autonomous architecture design-construction-combined system, which is significantly more efficient and adaptable compared to most conventional building methodologies. According to their calculation, the structure for a 200 square metre family house could be easily fabricated by their system in one week with material cost less than two thousand pounds.




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