Onsite Digital Fabrication for Architecture

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 206 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jonas Buchli, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
The integration of digital technologies in architecture and construction is an inherently multidisciplinary challenge. Fully exploiting the potential of digital fabrication in architecture and construction, requires a holistic view on all the involved processes, from the inception of the idea to its execution. Integrating digital technologies within building processes is not merely a challenge of automatizing human centered work flows using standard technologies. On the contrary, it requires an in-depth understanding of how digital fabrication processes can be realized within an architectural context through novel process-specific combinations of mechatronics and materials as well as innovative building strategies. To gather this understanding and to share the resultant knowledge with practitioners, we need research environments,which stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration and catalyze the direct transfer of technologies into the respective industries as well as the education of future professionals. A prime example of such an environment is the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication. NCCRs are the largest funding instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation aimed at fostering cross-disciplinary, long-term research in areas of strategic importance for the future of science, economy, and society. The NCCR Digital Fabrication unites over 60 researchers from architecture, structural design, materials science, computer science, control systems engineering, and robotics under the common vision to establish a digital building culture. One addressed research challenge is “On Site Digital Fabrication”, i.e. digital fabrication technologies directly implemented on construction sites. NCCR researchers succeeded in developing a new class of versatile mobile robots called “In situ Fabricators”. “In situ Fabricators” are able to execute different building technologies on construction sites. An example of such a technology is “Mesh Mould”, a fully integrated on site digital fabrication process, which makes it possible to build structurally optimized steel reinforced concrete walls without the use of any formwork. The technology combines the latest results in concrete materials research with novel mechatronics developments. “Mesh Mould” demonstrates the potential of on site digital fabrication processes to evoke new forms of architectural expression, enhance building sustainability, and increase construction efficiency.