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Robots Learn to Build Prefab Timber Modules

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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Researchers based out of ETH Zurich university recently created a new robotic construction method, which is being used to create a computer-designed modular house.

The Spatial Timber Assemblies project uses computers to design individual units, beginning with a robot sawing timber beams down to the correct size. This innovative construction process is made possible thanks to collaboration between ETH Zurich, architectural research unit Gramazio Kohler Research and timber construction firm ERNE AG Holzbau.

Robotic Construction

After a tool swap, a second robot drills the holes necessary for bolting the beams together. Using algorithms to prevent collision, two robots then work in conjunction to position the beams where needed. (A human worker is still needed to bolt the beams in place.)

ETH Zurich

Researchers based out of ETH Zurich university recently created a new robotic construction method, which is being used to create a computer-designed modular house.

According to ETH Zurich, Spatial Timber Assemblies can function without reinforcement plates “because of the required rigidity and load-bearing result from the geometric structure.” This means saved material and the creation of new possibilities.

"If any change is made to the project overall, the computer model can be constantly adjusted to meet the new requirements," Matthias Kohler, professor of architecture and digital fabrication at ETH Zurich, said in an interview.

This is the first large-scale architecture project to use the robots in the university’s new Robotic Fabrication Laboratory.

Moving forward, six spatial, geometrically unique timber modules will be prefabricated onsite, using 487 wooden beams, and transported to the location of the DFAB House. There, they will be assembled into a two-story, 100-square-meter (1,076-square-foot) residential unit.

DFAB House

The assembly will be used to form the topmost floors of the DFAB house, which combines five new digital construction methods. Eight ETH Zurich professors are currently working with industrial partners to build the structure, as part of a project for the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research.

DEFAB House also features architectural technologies that include 3-D mesh molds that serve as the framework and reinforcement for non-linear concrete walls, and 3-D-printed ceiling slabs.

The structure also features the Smart Dynamic Casting coordination system, which has “already been used at ETH to prefabricate concrete facade posts designed specifically for the loading conditions of the building’s glass facade,” according to the university.

DEFAB House is slated to open in the autumn.

   

Tagged categories: Color + Design; Construction; Europe; Prefabrication; Residential Construction; Robotics

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