An international group of researchers have developed new methods utilizing digital fabrication in an effort to streamline architecture.

During the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2017 Annual Meeting in Boston from Feb. 16-20, researchers from Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia showed the latest developments in digital fabrication in architecture at a 1:1 building scale.

The research group showed that digital technologies can be successfully integrated in design, planning and building processes in order to successfully transform the building industry.

Jonas Buchli, assistant professor for Agile and Dexterous Robotics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and principal investigator in the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, proposed a radical focus on domain specific robotic technology, which would enable the use of digital fabrication directly on construction sites and in large scale prefabrication.

Buchli brought a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach that incorporates researchers from architecture, material science and robotics.

During the meeting, Jane Burry, director of the Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, explored how these opportunities for automation, optimization, variation, mass-customization and quality control can be fully realized in the built environment within full scale construction.

Burry was able to show select digital fabrication examples, where research and innovation have changed construction practice.

The majority of materials currently used in 3D printing were developed to print small scale objects.

Ronald Rael, associate professor for Architecture at University of California, Berkeley, developed new materials that can overcome the challenges of scale and costs of 3D printing on 1:1 construction scale.

He demonstrated that viable solutions for 3D printing in architecture could involve a material supply from sustainable resources, culled from waste streams or consideration of the efficiency of a building product’s digital materiality.   

Despite advances in technology, building processes still involve sub-standard working conditions and are not compellingly sustainable.

Current research on the integration of digital technologies within construction focuses on making contributions to sustainability and productivity, while also enabling completely new forms of architectural expression.

The multidisciplinary nature of integrating digital processes continues to be a challenge in establishing a digital building culture.

To exploit the potential of digital fabrication, an institutional and funding environment that enables strong interdisciplinary research is required.

Digital computation allows designers to move from the constraints of the static 2D and 3D representational techniques of drawing and physical modeling.

Design attributes can be directly linked to extraneous factors including structural or environmental optimization or fabrication and material constraints.

Mathematical design models contain sufficient information even for computer numerical controlled (CNC) fabrication machines and techniques.