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Robots to Lead Architecture’s Future

Robots are being embraced by architects and used to automate and enhance certain design processes.

Robots have been a staple of the manufacturing industry for years, but their presence on construction sites has been slow to occur. Now it seems like they’re being embraced by architects and used to automate and enhance certain design processes. Let’s take a closer look at the various ‘architecture robots’ currently or about to be in use.

3D Printers

3D printing is one area of construction where robotic-driven technology is predominating. It requires a precise positioning device that robotics can enable- a human employee can’t take a bucket of concrete and pour it over a specific plan layer by layer. 3D printing does have limitations due to printer size, as bigger prints require larger printers. How large a printer would be needed to ‘print’ an entire building?

Grasshopper Plugin

The technologies that drive robot arms in particular are proving adaptable for use in architecture and design. Robot manufacturer KUKA, modeling program Rhinocerous, and Rhino plugin Grasshopper have collaborated to create a plugin that allows designer to control robots with a program currently used by architects and digitally simulate the actual fabrication process.

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ROB

ETH Zurich lab Gramazio & Kohler, which is widely recognised for its contribution to robotic construction and digital fabrication, designed a robotic arm used to lay bricks. Dubbed ‘Rob’, the arm was intended to automate the bricklaying process.

Gramazio & Kohler taught one four-week workshop in which students designed brick walls to be built by an architecture robot. Unlike a human, the robot can position each brick in a different manner without visual measurement or reference. It works more quickly than a human, remains steady at work around the clock, and lays bricks with high precision.

Architecture robots

Flight-Assembled Architecture

Working in collaboration with Raffaello d'Andrea, Gramazio & Kohler recently put together an exhibition in Orléans, France, ‘Flight-Assembled Architecture’, which saw miniature helicopter bots assemble a six-metre tall tower out of 1500 foam blocks.

 "Edge-Monkey"

Edge monkeys are a system of small robots that regulate building exteriors, including indoor conditions and energy usage by closing windows, adjusting blinds, and checking thermostats. These architecture robots can even identify and contact building occupants who appear to be wasting energy.

These are only examples of the ways that robots are leading architecture’s future. At the 2015 World Architecture Festival BIG partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann said that robots have the ability to transform the way construction is done. He said that in Switzerland, the industry are looking at ways that robots could place the stone and mortar in the right places and even make that aspect of the construction business less dangerous. Mr. Bergmann also confirmed that BIG was working with robotics on the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

As their adoption becomes more widespread, speculation abounds on what these architecture robots will look like. Will they continue to be industrial arms, 3D printers, or humanoid robots? Or will they be something entirely different? One thing appears to be certain: construction elements and building design are likely to change a lot.

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