Modern assembly lines are often associated with robotics and automated processes doing a great deal of the work, with a few workers helping the robots; but when many people think of constructing buildings, images of construction workers and carpenters with their hammers, screw drivers, welding torches, and hard hats come to mind. However, more and more, the construction industry is seeing automation come to the forefront and robotic fabrication is a prime example.
While it seems the current trend in fabricating buildings with robots is in the creation of temporary buildings, and while for the most part robotic fabrication is still in the experimental stage, it seems likely that those processes are on the cusp of breaking out. It may not be long before houses are manufactured by a combination of robots and 3D printers, and once the techniques have proven themselves in home construction, ever-larger buildings will rise before our eyes.
An example of robotic fabrication can be seen at Stuttgart University in Germany. An exhibition hall on the university’s campus employs complex architecture through interlocking panels whose structure is made by a robot. According to Architecture Magazine, the construction of the hall “demonstrates that robot-driven fabrication is a legitimate method for building construction, particularly when designers want to create formal complexity with heterogeneous components and optimize material resources.”
In other words, it will increase the ability to realize more complex designs and make the fabrication process more effective and efficient.
With this technique, more complex designs will be possible, opening up new possibilities in architectural design. While computer aided design (CAD) has no doubt allowed architects to imagine entirely new kinds of buildings, the fact that manufacturing techniques have hardly kept up-to-date means many of the boldest ideas have yet to be fully realized. With robotic fabrication, those ideas may soon be able to be realized at full scale.