Robotics in Timber Construction

Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall, a double-domed pavilion, is an architectural prototype building and showcases the current developments in computational design and robotic fabrication for lightweight timber construction. The newly developed timber construction offers not only innovative architectural possibilities; it is also highly resource efficient, with the load bearing plate structure being just 50mm thin.

The University’s “Robotics in Timber Construction” research project has been realised in collaboration with Müllerblaustein Holzbau GmbH, Landesgartenschau Schwäbisch Gmünd 2014 GmbH, the forest administration of Baden-Württemberg (ForstBW) and KUKA Robotics GmbH.

The design team in Stuttgart, Germany have managed to get robots to construct an interlocking timber structured building. The Exhibition Hall has been designed with 243 individual segments of plywood made from beech wood using a robotic off-site fabrication method. The industrial robot’s kinematic flexibility was an essential requirement for the production of such complex and individual geometries. “One of the most important challenges and innovations is the robotic fabrication of the 7,600 individual finger joints, which, through their interlocking connection, are the main reason for the building’s structural stability,” explained the team.

A robot that is capable of drilling wood across multiple planes was used to create the panels – a process that would require a huge amount of time to complete manually but took just three weeks.

The building is “the first to have its primary structure entirely made of robotically prefabricated beech plywood plate” according to the project team.

The development, fabrication and construction of the Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall demonstrates that robotic fabrication in conjunction with computational design, simulation and surveying methods enable architects, structural engineers and timber manufacturers to work interdisciplinary as well as material- and fabrication-oriented. This leads not only to resource efficient timber constructions but also to a novel and expressive architecture.

Source: University of Stuttgart