Digital Fabrication in Architecture – The Challenge to Transform the Building Industry

Main content

Press Release for AAAS 2017

For Immediate Publication

Media resources

Copyright: NCCR Digital Fabrication
Mobile construction robot - In situ Fabricator (IF) in the Next Evolution in Sustainable Building Technologies (NEST) building. (Photo: National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich)

Society faces enormous challenges in constructing a high-quality, future-oriented built environment. Construction sites today, still look much like building sites at the beginning of the 20th century. Current research on digital fabrication in architecture indicates that the development and integration of innovative digital technologies within architectural and construction processes could transform the building industry - on the verge of a building industry 4.0. Digital technologies in architecture and construction could increase productivity and create new jobs.

Many building processes still involve sub-standard working conditions and are not compellingly sustainable. Current research on the integration of digital technologies within construction processes promises substantial contributions to sustainability and productivity, while at the same time enabling completely new forms of architectural expression. The multidisciplinary nature of integrating digital processes remains a key challenge to establishing a digital building culture. In order to fully exploit the potential of digital fabrication, an institutional and funding environment that enables strong interdisciplinary research is required. Traditionally separated disciplines such as: architecture, structural design, computer science, materials science, control systems engineering, and robotics now need to form strong research connections.

During the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston, Jonas Buchli, ETH Zurich – The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, Ronald Rael, University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A., and Jane Burry, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia reveal the latest developments in digital fabrication in architecture at 1:1 building scale. In their presentations, they show digital technologies can be successfully integrated in design, planning, and building processes in order to successfully transform the building industry.

On Site Digital Fabrication for Architecture

Jonas Buchli, Assistant Professor for Agile and Dexterous Robotics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and principal investigator in the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication is proposing a radical focus on domain specific robotic technology enabling the use of digital fabrication directly on construction sites and in large scale prefabrication. He demonstrates how researchers at ETH Zurich within the NCCR Digital Fabrication as Switzerland’s leading initiative for the development and integration of digital technologies within the field of architecture are facing the challenge of developing this technology. They bring a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach that incorporates researchers from architecture, materials science, and robotics. In his presentation, Buchli will provide insight into current research and the future vision and development of the In situ Fabricator, a mobile and versatile construction robot, which in 2017 will be utilised for the first time on an actual building site.

The New Mathematics of Making

Digital computation has freed designers from the constraints of the static 2- and 3- dimensional representational techniques of drawing and physical modelling. Design attributes can be directly linked to extraneous factors: structural or environmental optimisation, or fabrication and material constraints. Mathematical design models contain sufficient information even for computer numerical controlled (CNC) fabrication machines and techniques. Jane Burry, Director of the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, explores how these opportunities for automation, optimisation, variation, mass-customisation, and quality control can be fully realised in the built environment within full scale construction. Burry shows select digital fabrication examples, where research and innovation have changed construction practice. She will draw on prominent case studies such as the design and construction of Antonio Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia.

Building Materials for 3D Printing

Most materials used in 3D printing are used for small objects. Ronald Rael, Associate Professor for Architecture at UC Berkeley, U.S.A., reveals how he is developing new materials that can overcome the challenges of scale and costs of 3D printing on 1:1 construction scale. He demonstrates that viable solutions for 3D printing in architecture involve a material supply from sustainable resources, culled from waste streams or consideration of the efficiency of a building product’s digital materiality. The methods of such architectural additive manufacturing must emerge from interdisciplinary research.

Media kit for "On Site Digital Fabrication for Architecture," Jonas Buchli, ETH Zurich

The project team behind the novel building technology «Mesh Mould» received the Swiss Technology Award 2016 in the category «Inventors». The award is Switzerland's most prestigious award for innovation and technology.
The In situ Fabricator Captured by Reuters
In situ Fabricator and Mesh Mould - NCCR Digital Fabrication at ETH Zurich
Copyright: NCCR Digital Fabrication  
Photo: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich - Construction robot, In situ Fabricator with two meter high mesh structure in laboratory environment.

 
Copyright: NCCR Digital Fabrication  
Photo: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich - Mesh Mould prototype produced by In Situ Fabricator construction robot being filled with concrete.

Additional Web Resources

NCCR Digital Fabrication at ETH Zurich

Copyright: NCCR Digital Fabrication  
Photo: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich - In situ Fabricator (construction robot) fabricating a doubly curved mesh structure during a fabrication test on the Empa NEST building in Duebendorf, Switzerland
Copyright: NCCR Digital Fabrication  
Photo: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich - Finish of a two meter high, concrete-filled mesh prototype produced by In-Situ Fabricator construction robot.

Media kit for "The New Mathematics of Making," Jane Burry, RMIT University

Photo: RMIT University  
Photo: http://www.sial.rmit.edu.au/portfolio/fabpod-sial/
Photo: RMIT University  
Photo: http://www.sial.rmit.edu.au/portfolio/smartnodes/
Photo: RMIT University  
Photo: http://www.sial.rmit.edu.au/portfolio/passion-facade/
Photo: RMIT University  
Photo: http://www.sial.rmit.edu.au/portfolio/smartnodes/

Media kit for "Building Materials for 3D Printing," Ronald Rael, UC Berkeley

Building a House the Eco-Friendly Way with 3D Printing | KQED Arts KQED Arts KQED Arts
>http://www.rael-sanfratello.com/</a>Copyright: Rael San Fratello http://www.rael-sanfratello.com/  
Photo: Rael San Fratello. Building blocks for architecture are printed using a farm of 11 powder 3D printers with a special cement composite formulation comprised chiefly of iron oxide-free portland cement in the PrintFARM. http://www.rael-sanfratello.com/

Connections

Meet us at AAAS 2017
"Digital Fabrication in Architecture – The Challenge to Transform the Building Industry"
Friday, February 17th, 2017, 03:00 – 4:30 PM
Room 206, Hynes Convention Centre, Boston, USA

Media Contacts
ETH Zurich Media Relations, +41 44 632 41 41,

Rahel Byland, Program Manager, ETH Zurich (on-site at AAAS in Boston)

Researchers' Contacts
Jonas Buchli, Assistant Professor for Agile and Dexterous Robotics, NCCR Digital Fabrication and Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, ETH Zurich, Switzerland,    

Jane Burry, Associate Professor, Director of the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Ronald Rael, Associate Professor of Architecture, UC Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, Berkeley, USA

 
 
Page URL: https://www.ethz.ch/en/the-eth-zurich/global/eth-global-news-events/2016/12/eth-meets-you-at-the-aaas-2017-in-boston/DigitalFabrication.html
Thu Mar 23 11:11:30 CET 2017
© 2017 Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich