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Timber Construction Advances through Robotic Fabrication

The University of Stuttgart recently announced that they have made great strides in the study of robotic fabrication and timber construction. Together with Kuka, a manufacturer of industrial robot arms and the timber construction and engineering company MüllerBlaustein, the school has come up with exciting new developments that could change the way we fabricate buildings.

The research project was funded by the European Union and the state of Baden-Württemberg with a budget of 425,000 Euro and sought to determine whether or not robotic fabrication could be used in a large scale on building projects.

To date, most building processes with timber were either done painstakingly by hand or they could mass produce single parts. Both are time consuming and while the end result is impressive, researchers at the University sought to make the process better.

According to Science Daily, “In the summer of 2011 the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), together with students at the University of Stuttgart have realized a temporary, bionic research pavillon made of extremely thin plywood.”

With the addition of robotic fabrication, adaptive construction processes are getting closer to being a reality.

Science Daily’s report continued, “The investigation of the potentials of robotic fabrication requires the development and application of novel architectural design, planning and simulation processes. A main focus lies on the coherent ‘digital chain’ from the geometry modelling, to the structural analysis and digital fabrication, as well as the subsequent monitoring of tolerances and geometrical deviations.”

The University of Stuttgart is going to continue their research in this field, utilizing their own robotic tools and in cooperation with the above named companies. They hope to advance this research until it is capable of being used in real-world applications.

This is great news for those in the mechanical engineering and fabrication industries. As this technology develops, the impact on how we build things and the length of time it takes to complete large-scale building projects will be monumental. For engineering students interested in robotics, these new systems offer a way to translate that education into a rewarding and lasting career in this industry. While much of the research is being conducted in Europe, it is only a matter of time before it is embraced on a larger scale in the United States. Several engineering schools may soon be including this research into their own curriculum’s.

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