Workshop Result – Photographs by ICD University of Stuttgart

Workshop Process – Photographs by ICD University of Stuttgart

RobArch 2016 Workshop
Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning
The University of Sydney

Recent developments in computational design and computer-controlled fabrication have significantly expanded the range of applications for timber in architecture. Although modern timber fabrication technology allows the material to be shaped into a variety of shapes, products and dimensions, the inherent material characteristics of timber are mostly neglected or even suppressed in the design and fabrication process. Yet, timber exhibits excellent mechanical behaviour and high potentials for textile and multi-material connections outside the scope of conventional timber connections. This workshop explored an alternative approach and investigated the architectural potentials of robotic sewing of plywood in combination with elastic bending.

In this process standardised, regular strips of plywood are sewn together using an industrial sewing machine as an external effector in conjunction with two collaborating robot arms handling the workpiece. This fabricational concept allows the construction of complex geometry without relying on elaborate measuring techniques or geometric specificity of the building parts. Instead, after attaching a first strip to the robot arms the sewing machine is used to indicate the exact assembly location of the next strip using thread. In the following step the new strip is sewn onto the first strip with the robots guiding the assembly through the sewing machine. These two steps are subsequently repeated. The process then effectively resembles an additive extrusion process where strips are incrementally sewn onto the existing assembly resulting in a stiff, but ultra-lightweight building module.

The fabrication process is enabled by customised computational design tools that the participants engaged with during the workshop. Taking a double-curved design surface as an input, the tool generates a buildable structure within the material and machine constraints. A simulation of the robotic sewing process and export of robot control files are fully integrated in the computational design process. The workshop not only allowed for the exploration for innovative fabrication techniques in timber construction, but also provided an opportunity to reconsider and re-interpret the textile nature of wood as a natural fibre composite for timber architecture.


ICD Institute for Computational Design – Prof. Achim Menges

Tobias Schwinn, Oliver David Krieg

The Monash Laboratory of Materials and Processes

Tim Schork, Jackson Caish-Sadlek

Workshop Participants

Martin von Hilchen, Kaicong Wu, Paul Wintour, Jose Aguilar, Simon Lullin, Peter Booth, Gregor Steinhagen, Xiao Sunny Li, Hao Meng, Philipp Eversmann, Ricardo Assis Rosa, Anna Szabo, Leigh Aitken, Jason Hare, Farbod Fathalipouri, and Jere Toivonen

Organized and Supported by

RobArch 2016 – Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art, and Design
Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney
UNSW L Art& Design | School of Architecture, Sydney
Abedian School of Architecture, Bond University, Gold Coast