AA World : CONSTRUCTION and MATERIALS

AA World : Automated – Autonomous World is a series of articles about the current state of Automated and Autonomous technology to try to demonstrate how The Venus Project concepts can be feasible even with today’s technology.

If you are familiar with The Venus Project then you have heard the word “automation” many times. You already know that The Venus Project´s technology relies heavily on automated and autonomous systems to properly work. But how far can such technologies go today? Can we design complex production/delivery systems to be fully automated and autonomous (AA)? What about transportation, security, and research? Can these fields rely on such systems?

In this series of articles, I will try to show you what AA can do today and what they may do in the near future.

What is automation ?

Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching in telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships or aircraft and other applications with minimal or reduced human intervention.

The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labor, however, it is also used to save energy and materials and to improve quality, accuracy and precision.

Automation has been achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic and computers, usually in combination. Complicated systems, such as modern factories, airplanes and ships typically use all these combined techniques. “ WikiPedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automation

What is autonomous technology?

Autonomous technology refers to machines that act independently of humans.They behave in ways that mimic humans and free people from repetitive, unstimulating jobs.

Most advanced aircraft are almost entirely autonomous, in the sense that they can take off, fly, obey air traffic control, avoid other aircraft, and land, all without human intervention, except in plotting a destination.

So for this article think about automated technology as machines that function with little, if any, human control.

But before we continue, you have to understand that today´s AA technologies are engulfed in the monetary system and not fully expressed. For the sake of demonstration, let´s say someone wanted to build an automated restaurant, although possible from a technical perspective, its development and deployment would be limited by the financial system. That is why you probably don’t see many AA restaurants today. It is because of the impediments in our social system, not technological limitations. The technologies you will find below, however, are considered not for their financial worth, but rather for their technical worth.

CONSTRUCTION.  

Construction techniques are essential to build any structure, be it a home, hospital, or airport. I will show you how automated and autonomous technologies can mechanize the construction process, making it faster, safer, and better able to build complex forms.

Let’s think about construction in terms of :

– complexity and agility

– intelligence and reliability

– efficiency and durability

COMPLEXITY and AGILITY

Contour Crafting technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole

structures as well as sub-components. Using this process, a single house or an entire colony of houses, each with possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run. Embedded in each house would be all the conduits for electrical systems, plumbing, and air-conditioning. The potential applications of this technology are far reaching. http://www.contourcrafting.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdbJP8Gxqog

Other similar technologies are using 3D printers like D-Shape (http://www.d-shape.com/) to eventually build full houses. The D-Shape building process is similar to the “printing” process because the system operates by straining a binder on a sand layer. This is similar to what an ink-jet printer does on a sheet of paper. This principle allows the architect to design fantastically complex architectural structures. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYaRUVTwIVc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G1dZeEiwgU

For instance, the ‘Landscape House’ is an ambitious plan to build a full house using this technology. http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/right-click/architect-aims-build-endless-house-using-3d-printer-173455705.html

But where such 3D printing-like technologies cannot be deployed, multiple autonomous robots can build complex structures with little or no help from humans.

However, we need to consider that autonomous construction is challenging for robotics both at the mechatronic and at the control levels. At the mechatronic level, robots require manipulators with many degrees of freedom. At the control level, autonomous construction mixes complex low-level actions, such as adding new elements to a structure, with a high-level cognitive behaviour, such as reasoning on a course of action to avoid situations that prevent the completion of the structure.

The marXbot robot is well-suited tools for autonomous construction. As it is modular, it has many different manipulation capabilities. Moreover, as the robot is small, neither the robot nor the built structures are dangerous. This allows marXbot to efficiently explore different construction modalities.

http://mobots.epfl.ch/autonomous-construction.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h865RHbT9Ms

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yobosuX66s

http://www.autonomousrobotsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/architecture_Magnenat.png

But robots doesn’t necessarily have to be confined to the ground. Some can also fly, thus helping to make construction faster.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnkMyfQ5YfY

Other autonomous robots can climb tall buildings while carrying heavy parts, mounting them on their route. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynr7VGiusQQ

The agility of these robots comes not only from their ability to move and communicate with each other, but also from their specialized arms, which are getting more and more complex. These arms offer robots an expanding range of achievable tasks: from picking up a variety of shapes and materials, to manipulating these objects, or even using tools built for the human hand, and more.

We all know there’s a plethora of such complex grippers that manipulate objects from their microscopic size to large construction materials.

Here are 3 examples of such arms:

  1. Designed for applications dealing with a wide variety of parts, this 3-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper represents a solution to improve process flexibility and consistency. This robotic hand gives “hand-like” capabilities to robot arms in advanced robotic applications and industrial automation such as robotic welding, machine loading/unloading, bin picking and research.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiDmTwF9mvw . Put a tool designed for the human hand in this gripper and it will definitely know how to use it. http://robotiq.com/en/products/industrial-robot-hand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YPwiwB-B4U

  1. Now what about a similar 3-finger design, but inspired by the Elephant trunk? It may seem to be the same technology, but it’s not. This arm, designed by a company in Germany, possesses great dexterity, flexibility, and strength; it operates with smooth, yet firm, motions and can pick up and move any kind of object from one place to another. The arm itself is significantly more flexible than other similar concepts, allowing it to perform tasks that require a great deal of accuracy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKJybDb1dz0

Their Youtube channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/FestoHQ?feature=watch

  1. And lastly, this arm’s technology is perhaps the most innovative way of dealing with complexity. The fingers seen in the previous two designs are entirely replaced by a bag of granular material. This granular material flows around an object and, when compressed, solidifies to secure the object in place. Such an innovative, simple design makes manufacturing and programming this mechanism very easy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKOI_lVDPpw

Read more about it here – http://creativemachines.cornell.edu/jamming_gripper

These 3 elegant robotic arm technologies are a proof of how complex grippers can be, thus demonstrating how this kind of technology can take on complex and varied construction tasks.

Some industrial robots with prominent robotic arm technologies are, in fact, being used in present-day construction projects. For example the Gantenbein Winery, in Fläsch, Switzerland, has been the prototype for an entirely new approach to bricklaying: using modified industrial robots. Traditionally, the promise of industrial robots has been that they would replace the human workforce. But these projects, led by the Architecture and Digital Fabrication laboratory at ETH Zürich, demonstrate a different result: architects are free to create designs and patterns of a precision that simply could not be achieved by hand.

http://monocle.com/film/business/constructing-the-future/

intelligence and reliability

Imagine AI robots using different kinds of materials, prefabricated construction parts, and multiple construction techniques to build infinitely complex structures.

We already showed how multiple robots can work autonomously to construct complex buildings, but construction techniques don’t necessarily have to be limited to 3D printing or these intelligent  robots. They can also be embedded directly into prefabricated materials. Imagine a flat piece of material that can self-assemble itself into a house. Seems like science fiction?

Well look at Sjet (http://www.sjet.us/), because they are rapidly developing this technology and even have some small scale prototypes. Without external machinery to manipulate them, individually coded building elements can organize and assemble themselves though applied energy sources.  Designer, computer scientist, and lecturer at MIT’s Department of Architecture, Skylar Tibbits is a leading innovator on the subject.  His research focuses on developing self-assembly technologies for large-scale structures. Energy sources could be in the form of sound waves, wind, or kinetic sources.  Imagine buildings that could self-correct, adapt, or repair through energy transmitted by seismic energy.  Energy applied from ground shaking provides energy to built-in elements that allows them to adapt and respond and change state, a huge application in western California and other parts of the seismically active world.

http://vimeo.com/64926672

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gMCZFHv9v8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfW1NYvV0PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_B1YzbtrT8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PGDO75FcWc

One simple way to think about making construction a smart process, from start to finish, is to first map the real world (from structures to terrain and climate) and then use complex 3D software to generate new building designs. This way you can test a building with high degree of accuracy even before you start building it.

There are plenty of methods today to scan the world and render it in 3D (link2), or to map the weather and simulate real environments and scenarios.

And using BIM (Building Information Modeling) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_information_modeling

can ensure a reliable 3D model that best fits the environment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmcK7oZ51ko

Read “The future of construction: Meet BIM (or else)” http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/the-take/the-future-of-construction-meet-bim-or-else/ and our article from the July issue http://www.joomag.com/magazine/mag/0976444001368316120/p33 to understand how BIM works and why it is so important.

A building can be designed in a 3D software program like Autodesk and then erected in the real world using one of those AA construction technologies.

The way construction can be fully AA is this: the real world would be simulated through powerful computers, 3D models of buildings can be made to accurately match the environment in the simulation, and then these buildings would be simulated and tested under extreme conditions like natural disasters. Once that is done and many tests are simulated to ensure the building is correctly represented in the 3D software, technologies like contour crafting, 3D or 4D printing, or other such autonomous technologies, can be deployed to build the real model.

I see a future where you can visit a website and select your desired house from a 3D-models catalogue. These 3D models can be created by experts and shared, updated incrementally, or directly created and updated by AA software itself and edited by you to fit your needs. You would simply order one and it would be built using one of the technologies I mentioned. And this entire process can be fully AA. And if you think about this concept a bit more, you would come to realise that such a virtual environment can be shared and improved by experts, and non experts (if the software is secure enough),  from around the world. And with the help of AI’s random simulations to test thousands or millions of scenarios and building models, we can truly have a smart construction plan for any kind of project.

This is the way I see construction being almost, or even completely, autonomous in all its’ stages while continuously being improved and developed.

Efficiency and Durability

With the use of new materials, buildings can become maintenance free and smart enough to function efficiently through a system of feedback with the environment.

These smart materials are designed materials that have one or more properties that can be significantly changed in a controlled fashion by external stimuli, such as stress, temperature, moisture, pH, electric or magnetic fields. For a list of such types of materials read this wikipedia article.

For instance self-healing-concrete uses bacteria to fill cracks and prevent decay and corrosion of rebar http://www.gizmag.com/self-healing-concrete-bacteria/27748/ . Or concrete can use sunlight to fix its own cracks. http://polaritech.net/techtalk/2013/self-healing-concrete-uses-sunlight-to-fix-its-own-cracks/

Moreover, “super concrete”, with its high strength and ductility, will make for a much more resilient constructing material which would be able to withstand the power of earthquakes and extreme loading much better than the concrete that is widely used today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYx92ow7xmc

The Gecko foot is known for its super powerful stickiness and now scientists are able to replicate that property for the basis of a new type of super-sticky adhesive material. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

The lotus plant has an amazing way to stay clean. Each of its broad, round leaves is coated in a water-repellent wax. But that is not all. The surface of each leaf also has tiny bumps that raise particles and droplets away from the leaf, so that dirt and water barely make contact with the surface. This makes the leaf highly water-repellent. Dirt and water simply roll along the little bumps and off the leaf. The potential uses for this technology are vast and it is already being used in self-cleaning exterior paint. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

Ancient elasmobranchs (sharks) avoid pesky algae and bacteria by way of an ingenious skin design. Microorganisms prefer flat surfaces, which allow them to form large colonies or biofilms. But unlike most other fish, sharks don’t have flat scales. Instead, they have dermal denticles—ridged, tooth-like scales covering their body. These bumpy “teeth” create a rough surface that biofilms can’t colonize or thrive on, which contributes to the shark’s naturally bacteria-free status. Surfaces mimicking sharkskin are currently available for use in medical and hygienic settings. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

But if I had to chose one single most amazing material that seems to be out of this world, I would choose graphene.

Graphene: A human hair is almost a million times thicker than a layer of graphene. The material is made of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. In theory, a string of graphene with a diameter of just one-tenth of a square millimeter—the size of a very sharp pencil point—could hold up a thousand-pound piano.

High-quality graphene is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Its interactions with other materials and with light and its inherently two-dimensional nature produce unique properties, such as the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges, and large quantum oscillations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDJRlBSXsow

Other materials made out of similar carbon structures seems to possess super properties, too. Aerographite is a form of carbon with a sponge like structure. It is water-repellent, highly resilient, and extremely light. Actually, it is the lightest material ever created. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-07/video-aerographite-lightest-material-ever-created

Also, scientists crushed a naturally occurring kind of carbon called buckminsterfullerene (the molecules look like soccer balls) to create a material strong enough to dent diamonds. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminsterfullerene

Nanotechnology seems to provide a huge range of new materials with super properties. Materials that completely repeal water or dust are no longer science fiction. Amazing insulation and conduction materials are a thing of the present. Nanotechnology, as shown in the case of graphene, will completely redefine the notion of “strong”, thus making buildings extremely resistant to natural disasters.

These examples are just a few of the many dynamic and amazing materials that exist today and will continue to be improved in the coming years. They are truly among the most durable and efficient substances in architecture and engineering.

RESUME

We have shown how, when it comes to construction, 3D-like systems seem to be one of the most reliable, easiest, and fastest ways to build all kinds of buildings. Using wonder materials like self-healing concrete, graphene, or nanotube-like structures, these buildings can be made extremely resilient. Self-sufficient, smart, varied, complex, and reliable are all architectural traits attainable with today’s technology.

AI systems, like flocks of robots, that can help with construction or maintain buildings are no longer in the realm of science fiction. And complex grippers can assure even the most delicate task can be achieved.

Such buildings can be built completely with their electrical, plumbing, and communication systems all at once, thus reducing the time of construction and improving the overall functionality of the structure. Plus, reducing waste and using recycled materials can greatly reduce the energy required to build all kinds of buildings.

Simulating the real world will also greatly simplify the process of construction and allow incremental improvements, an easy interface for both experienced architects and inexperienced ones. This will ensure that each structure is based on a very high-quality blueprint.

It is a bit maverik to think we have covered even 1% of the technologies that exist today for automating construction. The realms of science will provide new, almost out of this world materials and methods for construction, while nanotechnology and more complex 3D printers can deliver infinitely complex structures that we cannot even imagine today.

The AA technologies of construction seems limitless: inspired by nature (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YiPLjozLdU), imagined by humans, and perfected with AI.

I hope that after having read this article you will look at TVP’s construction technologies knowing that they have a solid base in reality, if you previously thought they didn’t. I strongly encourage you to read more about TVP’s construction technologies in one of our previous issues.http://www.joomag.com/magazine/tvp-magazine-05-october/0710708001379549455/p6

In our next article from this series, we will discuss how entire cities can be built and how such cities can maintain themselves through intelligent systems that monitor every single inch of the city.

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separate notes

sec2/par1-2 We have now demonstrated how intelligent AA robots are capable of manipulating materials to construct infinitely complex structures. But how reliable can the can the design of a building be? Is it possible to optimize every building’s design to its environment? Would designs of the future be able to stand the test of time?

——–

But where such 3D printing-like technologies cannot be deployed, multiple autonomous robots can build complex structures with little or no help from humans. However, as you might imagine, this is a difficult undertaking. Autonomous construction of this kind is challenging for robotics both at the mechatronic level and at the control level. At the mechatronic level, robots require manipulators (or tools) with many degrees of freedom. At the control level, autonomous construction requires mixing complex low-level actions, such as adding new elements to a structure, with a high level of cognitive behavior, such as reasoning on a course of action to avoid situations that prevent the completion of the project.

The marXbot robot has overcome these milestones and is a fully autonomous construction machine. MarXbot is a modular robot with many different manipulation capabilities. And, since the robot is small, it poses little danger at the worksite and can crawl into tight spaces. This combination of features allows marXbot to efficiently explore different construction modalities and adapt the most fitting construction methods.

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AA World : Automated – Autonomous World is a series of articles about the current state of Automated and Autonomous technology to try to demonstrate how The Venus Project concepts can be feasible even with today’s technology.

If you are familiar with The Venus Project then you have heard the word “automation” many times. You already know that The Venus Project´s technology relies heavily on automated and autonomous systems to properly work. But how far can such technologies go today? Can we design complex production/delivery systems to be fully automated and autonomous (AA)?

What about transportation, security, and research? Can those rely on such systems?

In this issue, I will try to show you what AA systems can do today and what they may do in the near future.

What is automation ?

Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching in telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships or aircraft and other applications with minimal or reduced human intervention.

The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labor, however, it is also used to save energy and materials and to improve quality, accuracy and precision.

Automation has been achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic and computers, usually in combination. Complicated systems, such as modern factories, airplanes and ships typically use all these combined techniques. “ WikiPedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automation

What is autonomous technology ?

Autonomous technology refers to machines that act independently of humans. They may do things we find boring or don’t like doing, or behave in ways that mimics humans.

It is basically independent, automated, and networked systems which require no, or very little, human intervention to perform their task.

Most advanced aircrafts aircraft are almost entirely autonomous, in the sense that they can take off, fly, obey air traffic control, avoid other aircraft, and land, all without human intervention except to tell them where to go. intervention, except in plotting a destination.

So for this article, think about automated technology as machines that require significantly less or no little to no human control.

First, you have to understand that today´s AA systems are engulfed in the monetary system, therefore let´s say an automated restaurant, although possible from a technical perspective, its deployment and development is dependent of the financial system. So you may not see many AA restaurants today because of those impediments, not technological limitations. Also, all the examples I will provide are just some of many out there and are just a few of those that will be.

First, you have to understand that in today’s world almost everything is engulfed in the monetary system, automated technologies included. And although our technological capability allows us to construct fully AA restaurants, for example, you would probably not see many of those around. This is because of many impediments that withhold our technical capacity, such as those in law, tax policy, and job availability. As such, do not base your speculation of AA systems on the limited technologies you see around you; they are not representative of what is technically possible.

CONSTRUCTION.

Construction techniques are essential if you want a home, a hospital, an airport, or any kind buildings. For sure, the more automated and autonomous these construction systems are, the faster, safer and more complex the methods of construction and buildings will be.

Let’s think about construction in terms of :

Proper construction techniques are essential if you want to build a home, hospital, airport, bridge, or any other kind of structure. Using AA systems and their unique building techniques, construction would become faster, safer, more complex, and more efficient; not to mention that the finished product would be of exceptional quality.

To help better understand automation in construction, lets think in terms of:

– complexity and agility

– intelligence and reliability

– efficiency and durability

COMPLEXITY and AGILITY

Contour Crafting technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole structures as well as sub-components. Using this process, a single house or a colony of houses, each with possibly a different design, may be automatically constructed in a single run, embedded in each house all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning. The potential applications of this technology are far reaching including but not limited to applications in emergency, low-income, and commercial housing. http://www.contourcrafting.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdbJP8Gxqog

Other similar technologies are using 3D printers like D-Shape (http://www.d-shape.com/) to eventually build full houses. Watch these two videos of D-Shape technology to better grasp the concept and its future applications. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYaRUVTwIVc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G1dZeEiwgU

For instance the ‘Landscape House’ is an ambitious plan to build a full house using this technology  – http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/right-click/architect-aims-build-endless-house-using-3d-printer-173455705.html

But where such 3D printing technologies cannot be deployed, multiple autonomous robots can build complex structures with little or no help from humans on their own.

We sure need to consider that autonomous construction is challenging for robotics both at the mechatronic and at the control levels. At the mechatronic level, it requires manipulators with many degrees of freedom. At the control level, autonomous construction mixes complex low-level actions, such as adding new elements to a structure, with a high-level cognitive behaviour, such as reasoning on a course of action to avoid situations that prevent the completion of the structure.

The marXbot robot is well-suited tools to study autonomous construction. As it is modular, it can fit it with different manipulation capabilities. Moreover, as the robot is small, neither the robot nor the built structures are dangerous. This allows to efficiently explore different construction modalities.

Construction robots, such as marXbot, now possess the characteristics required to replace people on the worksite. At the mechatronic level, this bot has manipulators with many degrees of freedom, giving it flexibility in its job. At the control level, it mixes complex low-level actions, such as adding new elements to a structure, with a high-level of cognitive behavior, such as reasoning on a course of action to avoid situations that prevent the completion of the structure. Moreover, marXbot is small and can efficiently explore different construction modalities. It also poses much less of a danger than the massive machinery used in traditional construction methods.

http://mobots.epfl.ch/autonomous-construction.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h865RHbT9Ms

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yobosuX66s

http://www.autonomousrobotsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/architecture_Magnenat.png

And such robots doesn’t necessarily have to be “grounded”, they can also fly thus making the construction process faster.

But why stop at “grounded” robots? These quad-rotor robots can fly and work together to help make the construction process faster and easier.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ErEBkj_3PY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnkMyfQ5YfY

Or, autonomous robots designed to climb tall buildings can carry heavy parts and mount them along their route. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynr7VGiusQQ

The agility of these robots is not only in moving stuff around, but also in how well these robots are able to handle and manipulate objects. Many robots now wield specialized “arms” that are getting more and more complex, offering an expanding range of achievable tasks. From picking up various materials of different shapes to manipulating their objective targets, these robotic arms are designed to function optimally in almost any scenario, even when using tools meant for the human hand. And with so many different grippers to choose from, there’s bound to be at least one that’s best suited for any architect’s specific task. Here are just a few examples:

We all know there’s a plethora of such complex grippers that manipulate objects from their microscopic size to large construction materials.

Here are 3 examples: of such arms:

  1. 3-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper can do a huge variety of gripping such as robotic welding, machine loading/unloading, bin picking, and even assist in research.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiDmTwF9mvw . Put a tool designed for the human hand in this gripper and it will definitely know how to use it. http://robotiq.com/en/products/industrial-robot-hand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YPwiwB-B4U

  1. Now what about a similar 3 finger design, but inspired by the elephant trunk ? It may seem like the same technology, but it’s not. This arm, designed by a company in Germany, displays great dexterity, flexibility, and strength. It operates with smooth, yet firm, motions and can pick up and move any kind of object from one place to another. The arm itself is much more flexible than other such concepts and it can perform tasks that require a great deal of accuracy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKJybDb1dz0

Their youtube channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/FestoHQ?feature=watch

  1. The last one is perhaps the most innovative way of dealing with complexity complexly-shaped items. It can greatly reduce the costs of building since it is much easier to program. Individual fingers are replaced with a single mass of granular material that compresses around a target object and conforms to its shape, tightly securing the load.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKOI_lVDPpw

Read more about it here – http://creativemachines.cornell.edu/jamming_gripper

These so-called industrial robots are being now used in construction.

For example the Gantenbein Winery, in Fläsch, Switzerland, has been the prototype for an entirely new approach to bricklaying: using modified industrial robots. Traditionally, the promise of industrial robots has been that they would replace the human workforce. But these projects, led by the Architecture and Digital Fabrication laboratory at ETH Zürich, demonstrate a different result: architects are free to create designs and patterns of a precision that simply could not be achieved by hand.

As a matter of fact, here’s one partially autonomous system that has adapted an arm design and gripping feature. The Gatenbein Winery in Fläsch, Switzerland, serving as an experiment, has been constructed partially by a robotic system that assembled its’ brick walls. The robot was programed and fed a blueprint for an intricate wall design. Such a design would not have been feasible if built by hand, as the details of brick placement are very fine. The robot, however, was not only able to assemble the walls perfectly, but also finished this task significantly faster than it would have taken with traditional construction methods. Robots like this replace workers at the worksite, making it safer, and allow architects unprecedented flexibility in architectural design.

http://monocle.com/film/business/constructing-the-future/

intelligence and reliability

Imagine AI robots using different kinds of materials, prefabricated construction parts, and multiple construction techniques to build infinitely complex structures.

We already showed how multiple robots can work autonomously to construct complex buildings, but construction techniques are not necessarily limited to 3D printing or these intelligent robots, they can also be embedded into the prefabricated materials. Imagine a flat piece of material that can self-assemble itself into a house. Seems like science fiction?

Well look at Sjet (http://www.sjet.us/) because they are rapidly developing this technology and even have some small scale prototypes. Without external machinery to manipulate them, molecularly coded building elements can organize and assemble themselves though applied energy sources.  Designer, computer scientist, and lecturer at MIT’s Department of Architecture, Skylar Tibbits is a leading innovator on the subject.  His research focuses on developing self-assembly technologies for large-scale structures. Energy sources could be in the form of sound waves, wind, or kinetic sources.  Imagine buildings that could self-correct, adapt, or repair through energy transmitted by seismic energy ground movement.  Energy applied from ground shaking provides energy to built-in elements that allows them to adapt and respond and change the state, a huge application in western California and other parts of the seismically active world.

Energy from seismic activity transfers to a structures’ built-in elements to make it adapt, respond, and change state, a huge application in western California and other parts of the seismically active world.

http://vimeo.com/64926672

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gMCZFHv9v8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfW1NYvV0PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_B1YzbtrT8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PGDO75FcWc

One simple way to think about making construction a smart process, from initiation to completion, is this: imagine mapping the real world (from structures to terrain and climate) and using complex 3D software to create new buildings, considering all these factors. This way, one can test these buildings with a high degree of accuracy even before start building them construction.

There are plenty of methods today to scan the world and render it in 3D (link2), or to and to map the weather and to simulate real environments and scenarios.

There are plenty of methods today to scan the world and render it in 3D (link2) and to map the weather to help simulate real environments and scenarios.

And using BIM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_information_modeling

can ensure a reliable 3D model to best describe a structure within its environment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmcK7oZ51ko

Read “The future of construction: Meet BIM (or else)” http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/the-take/the-future-of-construction-meet-bim-or-else/ and our article from the July issue http://www.joomag.com/magazine/mag/0976444001368316120/p33 to understand how BIM works and why it is so important.

Structures can be designed in a 3D software program like Autodesk and then erected in the real world using one of those AA construction technologies.

The way construction can be fully AA is this: real world to be simulated through powerful computers, and based on this feedback, 3D models of buildings can be made to accurately match the environment and these buildings can be tested in front of natural disasters. Once that is done and many tests are simulated to ensure the building is correctly represented in the 3D software, technologies like contour crafting, 3D or 4D printing, or other such autonomous technologies, can be deployed to build the real model.

Ultimately, construction can be fully AA with today’s technology. Geologic and environmental areas would be simulated with powerful computers, feedback from these simulations would be used to create an optimal model structure, and then that model would be simulated under extreme conditions to test for durability. Only once a structure passes the simulation phase will technologies like Contour Crafting finally begin the construction process.

I see a future where anyone can visit a website and select their desired house from a 3D-model catalogue. These 3D models can be created by experts and shared, updated incrementally, experts, shared, and updated incrementally or directly uploaded to the AA software and configured to fit your needs or directly created and updated by an AA software itself and be edited by you to fit your needs. You order one and it will be built using one of the technologies I mentioned. And all this process can be fully AA. And if we think about this concept a bit more, we realise realize that such a virtual environment can be shared and improved by experts, and non experts non-experts (if the software is secure enough to let this happen) around the world, and world. With the help of an AI’s random simulations to test thousands or millions of scenarios and building models, we can truly have smart construction techniques methods for to build any kind of project.

This is the way I see construction being continuously improved and developed, while functioning almost autonomously, or even completely so, in all its’ stages.

Efficiency and Durability

With the use of new materials, buildings can become maintenance-free and smart enough to function efficiently within their environment.

These smart materials are designed materials that have one or more properties that can be significantly changed manipulated in a controlled fashion by external different stimuli, such as stress, temperature, moisture, pH, electric or magnetic fields. For a thorough list of such types of materials read this wikipedia Wikipedia article.

Smart materials are substances designed to have one or more manipulable properties that change based on external stimuli such as stress, temperature, moisture, pH, and electric or magnetic fields. (for a thorough list of smart materials read this Wikipedia article.)

For instance self-healing-concrete can use bacteria to fill cracks and prevent decay and the corrosion of rebar http://www.gizmag.com/self-healing-concrete-bacteria/27748/ . Or it can even use sunlight to fix the cracks – http://polaritech.net/techtalk/2013/self-healing-concrete-uses-sunlight-to-fix-its-own-cracks/

More than that, “super concrete”, with its outstanding strength and ductility, will make for a much more resilient construction material than the concrete widely used today. This “super concrete” performs well under all kinds of stress and will help buildings better withstand earthquakes and extreme loading. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYx92ow7xmc

The Gecko’s foot is known for its super powerful stickiness, and now scientists are able to replicate its’ properties for the basis of a new type of super-sticky adhesive material. Uses of such a material span a wide spectrum and include construction. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

The lotus plant has an amazing way to stay clean that scientists have learned of. Each of its broad, round leaves is coated in a water-repellent wax. But that’s not all. The surface of each leaf also has tiny bumps that raise particles and droplets away from the leaf, so that dirt and water barely make contact with the surface. This makes the leaf highly resistant to debris; any water or dirt that falls on the leaf simply rolls along the little bumps and falls of. This same principle is already used to make self-cleaning paint and still has many other applications.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

Some elasmobranchs, or cartilaginous fish, have an interesting way to avoid pesky algae and bacteria by way of an ingenious skin design. Microorganisms prefer flat surfaces, which allow them to form large colonies or biofilms. But unlike most other fish, sharks don’t have flat scales. Instead, they have dermal denticles—ridged, tooth-like scales covering their body. These bumpy “teeth” create a rough surface that biofilms can’t colonize or thrive on, which contributes to the shark’s naturally bacteria-free status. Through biomimicry, a similar technology has been developed and is currently used in medical and hygienic settings. However, this tech can be useful in other domains such as construction, to help prevent the growth of mold which can degrade structures. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/nature-materials.html

But if I had to choose one single most amazing out-of-this-world material, I would choose graphene.

Graphene is made of one of the most abundant elements on the planet: carbon. Carbon in graphene is arranged on a flat plane, which can be folded into a string, with hexagonal subunits. A human hair is almost a million times thicker than a layer of graphene, yet a strand of this wonder material just one-tenth of a millimeter in diameter could hold up a thousand-pound piano.

High-quality graphene is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Its interactions with other materials and with light and its inherently two-dimensional nature produce unique properties, such as the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges, and large quantum oscillations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDJRlBSXsow

Other materials made out of similar carbon structures also possess super properties. Aerographite is a form of carbon with a sponge like structure. It is water-repellent, highly resilient, and extremely light. Actually is it’s the lightest material ever created. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-07/video-aerographite-lightest-material-ever-created

Buckminsterfullerene, another molecule of carbon, also possesses interesting properties. Each molecule is made of 60 carbon atoms arranged hexagonally like a soccer ball. Normally, buckminsterfullerene is soft, but when compressed it becomes hard enough to dent diamond.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckminsterfullerene

Nanotechnology seems to provide a huge range of new materials with super properties. Materials that completely repeal water or dust are no longer science fiction. Amazing insulators or conductors materials are also a thing of the present. Nanotechnology, as shown in the case of graphene, will completely redefine the notion of “strong”, thus making buildings extremely resistant to degradation and natural disasters.

These examples are just a few of the many dynamic and amazing materials that exist today and will continue to be improved in the coming years. They are truly among on the most durable and efficient substances in architecture and engineering.

RESUME

We have demonstrated how, when it comes to construction, 3D simulation systems are the most reliable, easiest, and fastest way to design buildings and structures. Using wonder materials like self-healing concrete, graphene, or other resilient carbon-based assemblies, architects and engineers would be able to create things on a scale never before seen. The architecture of the future, or rather the present, promises to be smart, varied, complex, reliable, and self-sustaining.

AI systems, like flocks of robots or 3D printers or self-erecting structures, can assist with construction needs and help to maintain buildings’ structural integrity. These complex technologies are no longer a fantasy, they already exist and can be integrated directly into the construction infrastructure.

Buildings can even be completed with all their components at once. Plumbing, communication systems, and electrical lines would all be placed as the walls are built, resulting in a neater build and saving time, energy, and resources.

Simulations of real-world environments and architecture will also greatly simplify the process of construction and allow incremental improvements in design, an easy interface for those skilled in architecture and others who aren’t, and aren’t. This will ensure that a highly reliable structure is created before it is physically assembled.

It is a bit maverik to think we have covered even 1% of the technologies that exist today for automating the construction industry. The realms of biology and chemistry biology, chemistry, and engineering will provide new, almost out of this world out-of-this-world materials and methods for construction, while nanotechnology and complex 3D printers can deliver infinitely complex structures that we cannot even imagine today.

The AA technologies of construction seems limitless: inspired by nature (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YiPLjozLdU), imagined by innovators, and perfected with AI. It is without a doubt that fully AA construction systems can be developed with today’s technology. Through time, these systems would be refined and improved, breaching the boundaries of modern architecture.

I hope that, after you read this article, you will look at TVP’s construction technologies as having a solid base in reality, if you thought they didn’t already. I encourage you to read about TVP’s technical solutions to humanity’s many problems, many of which require advanced technologies such as those presented here. You can find out more about TVP in some of our previous issues.

http://www.joomag.com/magazine/tvp-magazine-05-october/0710708001379549455/p6

In our next article from this series, we will discuss how entire cities can be built and how such cities can maintain themselves through intelligent systems that use feedback to monitor and sustain the entire city.

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