Since its founding as a polytechnic school in 1829, the University of Stuttgart has pursued interdisciplinary research into visions for the future and today focuses on “intelligent systems for a sustainable society.” That credo applies well to the university’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE), which are part of the Architecture and Urban Planning faculty seeking to use creative design to solve both ecological and economic social challenges. ICD and ITKE are known the world over for their research into integrative, computational design and simulation methods as well as innovative, digital manufacturing processes with a focus on robotic fabrication. The goal of their interdisciplinary, research-oriented Integrative Technologies and Architectural Design Research Program (ITECH) is to prepare a new generation of students from different disciplines to continue the advancements of technological and computational processes by merging the fields of design, engineering, construction, and natural sciences.
Over the last 5 years, ITECH´s focus on robotics led five student teams to be residents in the Autodesk Technology Centers Outsight Network. The teams were able to take advantage of the Technology Centers’ large fleet of robotic equipment in Boston, as well as connecting with a global network of innovators.
There is a common thread linking the work of these teams: The experimentation with robotic fabrication and other technological manufacturing advancements that explore new building systems and materials, while developing novel workflows for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) applications. In doing so, they created several scaled proofs of concept that illuminate the relationship between form, structure, material, and environment.
For example, the Augmented Design Manufacturing project investigated both a system for controlling multiple fabrication robots and a computational tool that enables the design of large-scale structures from winding coreless filament. Expanding on this research, the Collaborative Robotic Winding for Coreless Fibrous Structures project, further demonstrated the use of augmented reality and spacial controllers to design a structure and improve fabrication time.
The Multi-Agent Spatial Weaving project research focused on lightweight fiber-reinforced composites using an industrial robot arm with a robotic weaving agent to build lightweight spatial structures. This methodology requires fewer anchor points, minimizing the use of material.
Such projects carry on a University of Stuttgart tradition dating back to 1962 of developing lightweight construction based on biological structures. And other ITECH resident teams in the Outsight Network continue to reinforce the institute’s goals by developing fabrication workflows for concrete 3D printing and an architectural robotic system that allows dynamic changes in form through intelligent actuators embedded into compliant materials.