Towards Force-aware Robot Collectives for On-site Construction

November 13, 2017
Publication: 37th Annual Conference of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture
Author(s): Paul Kassabian Nathan Melenbrink Achim Menges Justin Werfel

Due to the irregular and variable environments in which most construction projects take place, the topic of on-site automation has previously been largely neglected in favor of off-site prefabrication. While prefabrication has certain obvious economic and schedule benefits, a number of potential applications would benefit from a fully autonomous robotic construction system capable of building without human supervision or intervention; for example, building in remote environments, or building structures whose form changes over time. Previous work using a swarm approach to robotic assembly generally neglected to consider forces acting on the structure, which is necessary to guarantee against failure during construction. In this paper we report on key findings for how distributed climbing robots can use local force measurements to assess aspects of global structural state. We then chart out a broader trajectory for the affordances of distributed on-site construction in the built environment and position our contributions within this research agenda. The principles explored in simulation are demonstrated in hardware, including solutions for force-sensing as well as a climbing robot.

Services: Structural Design