Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler —
both professors at ETH's Institute for
Technology in Architecture — were among
the first to use robots in architectural
design. Since 2006, the duo has explored
various manufacturing techniques, including
both subtractive and additive fabrication —
as well as a wide range of materials — to
create astonishing structures built entirely
by robots. The use of robots, combined with
digital design tools, means a new aesthetic
becomes possible, with novel shapes and
patterns that would be nearly impossible to
achieve without the automated machines,
since industrial manipulators are extremely
precise and good at repetition.
Using robots, the two ETH architects
have fabricated intricate building parts out
of wood, concrete, bricks, and foam, and
have used these parts to build complex,
beautiful installations in Zurich, London,
Barcelona, New York, and other locations.
The idea of using robotic systems
for reconfigurable spaces or "smart
furniture" is not new. However, the
way Gramazio and Kohler are using
robots to actually build large
environments is very innovative.
Though their creations thus far have
been limited in size, the architects are
currently exploring the idea of
applying robotic fabrication to the
design and construction of high-rise
The architects are also
collaborating with roboticists from the ECHORD project to give their robot more mobility. One idea is to use a base with
tracks, and program the robot to recognize its position and surroundings. The biggest challenge is making sure the robot can
handle construction tolerances and variations, adapting to changing conditions autonomously.
PUT A KAPVIK ON IT
Canada's Carleton University is working on Kapvik — a remote
controlled micro-rover that can assist the more expensive Spirit Rover.
So, the next time one gets mired down in Mars' mud, the six-wheeler can
come to the rescue and then act as a scout the rest of the time.
The Canadian Space Agency is coordinating development of the rover,
and partners include aerospace company MacDonald, Dettwiler, and
Associates, as well as Toronto's Ryerson University which created a utility
arm that will collect surface samples and perform trenching operations.
Sensors planned for Kapvik include ultraviolet-visible spectrum, infrared
imaging, and mapping tools to detect water and ice content. Kapviks will serve as low cost, adaptive rovers that will be
remotely piloted and decrease the chances of losing more elaborate, expensive rovers to inhospitable terrain.
26 SERVO 11.2011