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Robots used in architecture: KUKA robot manufactures components for Bundesgartenschau pavilion

Robots used in architecture are an innovation: this also applies to a KUKA robot that fabricated components for a pavilion at the 2019 Bundesgartenschau. The robotic fabrication process was developed by an institute at the University of Stuttgart. It highlights the advantages of the construction robots.

Robotic fabrication processes in architecture

The Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart (ICD) is dedicated to the development of computer-aided design and construction processes. A main focus is on the range of potential applications for robots. The project team – consisting of Prof. Achim Menges as well as research employees Christoph Zechmeister, Serban Bodea and Niccolo Dambrosio – designed a pavilion for the 2019 Bundesgartenschau in Heilbronn using wound fiber components. The robotic fabrication process for the lightweight components was carried out using two KUKA products: the KUKA KR 210 R3100 QUANTEC robot wraps the fibrous filaments around two winding scaffolds that are attached to the KP1-HC positioners. BEC GmbH, the system builder, integrated the robots at the ICD.

Well wound: from up close, the complex structure of the pavilion is clearly evident.

New solutions for innovative architecture using robots

The pavilion consists of 60 components up to 6 meters in size. The special feature of the robotic fabrication process: despite their size, the elements do not have a core for laying up the fibers. “The supporting structure consists exclusively of fiber composite components. These are wound by construction robots using continuous glass and carbon fibers,” explains Christoph Zechmeister. The components are manufactured by FibR GmbH. “The design has a complexity that can only be implemented through the robotic fabrication process,” says Moritz Dörstelmann, Managing Partner. FibR GmbH specializes in the implementation of high-performance, expressive fiber composite structures by means of digital design and manufacturing technology.

Precision and repeatability – the construction robot adapts each element individually.

Robot fabrication process for innovative component production

FibR GmbH offers a robotic fabrication process for producing the components: two winding scaffolds are attached to two KUKA KP1-HC positioners. The positioners are kinematically coupled by means of a steel tube. The resulting horizontal axis is of infinitely rotating design and allows the winding scaffolds to move simultaneously. The freedom of movement is necessary for the robotic fabrication process. This ensures optimal accessibility for the end effector of the KR QUANTEC robot. The fiber spools are attached to the arm of the construction robot. The fibrous filaments are first impregnated before being subjected to stress regulation and fed to the end effector. The effector finally places the filaments around the attachment points of the winding scaffolds.

In full size: the finished pavilion at the Bundesgartenschau in Heilbronn.

Advantages of robots in construction

Thanks to the precision and repeatability of the construction robots, the components can be individually adapted. “The fabrication paths for the 60 elements are generated directly from the digital model,” says Christoph Zechmeister. The KUKA.WorkVisual engeneering suite was used to configure the application. In the robotic fabrication process, far-stretching fiber composite structures can be produced efficiently in terms of cost and materials. The potential of construction robots lies in the flexibility and scalability of the production setup as well as in the high quality of the components. “Robotic fabrication processes not only enable us to reduce the consumption of resources in the construction industry. They also allow for the implementation of exciting new architectural projects,” says Moritz Dörstelmann.

Using robots in architecture makes entirely new component shapes possible.

The robotic fabrication process makes it easy both to implement discrete motion sequences for the fabrication of components and to reduce the complexity of the process.

Christoph Zechmeister, research employee at ICD

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