Over the past 15 years, researchers in architecture and construction industries have been exploring the possibilities of employing industrial robotic equipment to help create new kinds of architectural forms. There is now a wealth of research in this area that manufacturers can draw on to inform new robotic manufacturing processes, due to the power that they entail in the direct path from digital design to fabrication. For architects, designers and construction managers, this research also points the way to new design possibilities.
In the scope of this training material, examples from current architectural and design research are explored. Recent publications from ROBArch, CuminCAD and prominent universities were analysed to identify key software resources. The key findings of the literature review show that tailored software is necessary to correspond to the needs of manufacturing bespoke designs. The results of this research hints that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the way fabrication is thought, as the design methods used in the early exploratory stages directly correlates with the way the industrial robots function and manufacture.
There are various different software packages available for controlling IRAs. However, considering direct workflows from architectural digital design to fabrication, add-ons within the parametric design plugin called Rhinoceros/Grasshopper is the most common one. Many architectural institutions and schools use KUKA PRC and Robots. KUKA PRC also serves as a hub of knowledge through their conference, workshop, website and online forum. It is also easier to find online tutorials of KUKA PRC, whereas Robots is freely available and easy to control with Grasshopper comments. It can also control all kinds of robots. On the other hand, Autodesk PowerMill Robot is most commonly used in architectural manufacturing firms. Open software packages for controlling robots are very common in robotic engineering. Software like ROS that can control robots in general are adapted for designers through more user friendly interfaces. Also free standing software like Mind Ex Machina can connect different design platforms such as Processing, and Grasshopper.
The software in the following table are stand-alone programs.
|Mind ex Machina||Link||All kinds of robots|
|RhinoRobot||Link||KUKA, UR, ABB, Staubli, Yaskawa, Fanuc|
|PowerMill Robot||Link||ABB, FANUC, KUKA|
|ROS||Link||All kinds of robots|
The following table lists software add-ons that can be used with the parametric design software environment ‘Grasshopper’.
|HAL||Link||ABB, KUKA, UR|
|RAPCAM||Link||ABB, FANUC, KUKA|
|ROBOTS||Link||ABB, KUKA and UR|