The Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zürich Unveils its Latest Thesis Achievements

The Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zürich Unveils its Latest Thesis Achievements

Mesh Mould Earth Construction. Image © Jomana Baddad + Indra SantosaExploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying. Image © Tsai Ping-Hsun + Eliott SounigoNon-Planar Seams for Branching Structures. Image © Mahiro GotoPerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric. Image © Emmanuelle Sallin+ 61

The Master of Advanced Studies ETH Zurich in Architecture and Digital Fabrication (MAS ETH DFAB) is the educational program of the world’s leading interdisciplinary research cluster on digital fabrication and robotics in architecture, the National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication at ETH Zürich. It is organized by the Chair for Digital Building Technologies and the Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication (Gramazio Kohler Research), two pioneering research groups in the field.

The one-year full-time program teaches the most relevant subjects, from computational design, material and digital fabrication innovations, to robotic fabrication and 3D printing technologies. Our students benefit from the excellence and experience of the ETH Zürich and NCCR researchers, the collaboration with our industry partners and the full access to the unique Robotic Fabrication Laboratory, where most of the pioneering research happens.

The MAS ETH DFAB strives for a new generation of collaborating architects, engineers, and designers equipped with the intellectual skills, technological and disciplinary know-how to define the future of architecture. A future, which provides answers to ecological, social and technological challenges and combines efficiency with aesthetics. 

The twelve projects presented here are the Master Theses of the MAS ETH DFAB from the year 2019-2020. Students collaborated with researchers from the Chair for Digital Building Technologies and Gramazio Kohler Research on specific questions regarding robotic fabrication processes and 3D printing technologies. All theses are embedded in ongoing research projects and supported by a larger group of experts. During three months, the 12 groups developed their own research plan, conducted experiments and ultimately presented their thesis through physical demonstrators, a written and oral presentation. All topics show the ability to turn concepts into software and digital building processes with the power to transform the way we build.

1) Mesh Mould Earth Construction

ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, Prof. Fabio Gramazio and Prof. Matthias Kohler
Students: Jomana Baddad, Indra Santosa
Tutors : Mattis Koh, Nik Eftekhar Olivo, Marvin Rüppel, Coralie Ming, Ammar Mirjan, Thibault Demoulin (Prof. Flatt), Gnanli Landrou (Prof. Habert).
In collaboration with Oxara:www.oxara.ch
Sponsors : Abuma GmbH Moebelle

Mesh Mould Earth Construction. Image © Jomana Baddad + Indra Santosa
Mesh Mould Earth Construction. Image © Jomana Baddad + Indra Santosa
Mesh Mould Earth Construction. Image © Jomana Baddad + Indra Santosa
Mesh Mould Earth Construction. Image © Jomana Baddad + Indra Santosa

Mesh Mould technology is an ongoing digital concrete research of stay in place form-work developed by the chair of architecture and digital fabrication in ETH Zurich. Mesh Mould sets the foundation for this research to fabricate reinforced earthen structures of complex geometries using open lattices to help its curing. The corresponding investigations are a middle ground between traditional applications of natural reinforcement shaping and digital fabrication methods. The digital output of a complex geometric model is translated into a low-tech fabrication workflow in order to adapt to the socio-economic reality of the used natural materials. The human-machine fabrication apparatus offers versatile scenarios of automation and labour engagement. The developed apparatus focuses on giving access to doubly curved complex reinforcement geometries through an affordable, easy to use fabrication interface. The research focuses on natural reinforcement material and investigates suitable bending and assembly methods. Conjointly, a computational model is developed, which integrates material characteristics and shaping methods. Eventually, the computional set-up will provide a straightforward interface for the human to fabricate reinforcement cages for earthen materials. The earthen material mix and filling process is conducted by our research collaborators Oxara.

2) Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction

ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, Prof. Fabio Gramazio and Prof. Matthias Kohler
Students: Anton Tetov Johansson, Edurne Morales Zúñiga
Tutors : David Jenny, Coralie Ming, Nicolas Feihl, Gonzalo Casas
Industry Partner : Lehmag AG and Brauchli Ziegelei AG

Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction . Image © Anton Tetov Johansson + Edurne Morales Zúñiga
Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction . Image © Anton Tetov Johansson + Edurne Morales Zúñiga
Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction . Image © Anton Tetov Johansson + Edurne Morales Zúñiga
Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction . Image © Anton Tetov Johansson + Edurne Morales Zúñiga

Rapid Clay Formations (RCF) is an ongoing research into robotic aggregation of soft clay elements conducted at the MAS ETH DFAB programme at ETH, Zürich. In our thesis, we present our research into RCF construction on an architectural scale. We outline our development of a fabrication process suitable to build tall and slender structures from clay. This fabrication process is evaluated through a series of prototypes and preparations for a three-week building workshop.
In this project, we have evaluated and tested material behaviour and optimisation, geometric sensing, robot trajectory planning and mobile robotic localization. These explorations are combined with design studies for large monolithic clay structures aiming at a rapid deployment on site. We call this stream of the RCF research Adaptive Clay Formations.

3) Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures

ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, Prof. Fabio Gramazio and Prof. Matthias Kohler
Student: Frédéric Brisson
Tutor: Victor Leung, Davide Tanadini (Prof. Schwartz)

Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures. Image © Frédéric Brisson
Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures. Image © Frédéric Brisson
Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures. Image © Frédéric Brisson
Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures. Image © Frédéric Brisson

Timber has a rich history in building construction. For centuries, carpenters have assembled timber structures by hand and while technology has improved production efficiency, the timber construction industry has been slow to embrace the potential of a fully automated robotic assembly process for factory-built structures.

Gramazio Kohler Research at ETH Zurich has been developing a robotic process with a clamping tool to place linear timber into an integral lap joint configuration on a vertically positioned post. While researchers have been capable to do so in a 90-degree configuration, this thesis seeks to demonstrate the potential for an angular clamping system that could joint linear timber within a range of angles on the same plane, opening up opportunities for more complex geometries in robotic assembly. Developed in collaboration with Victor Leung from Gramazio Kohler Research and Davide Tanadini from the Chair of Structural Design, this thesis presents parametric rules guiding the assembly, design and structural stability of a timber structure. It proposes a set of iterative design opportunities and has tested those opportunities through a 1-to-1 scale timber structure to confirm assumptions and discover elements to be further investigated.

4) Material-informed formwork geometry

ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, Prof. Fabio Gramazio and Prof. Matthias Kohler
Student: Yu-Hung Chiu, Chanon Techathuvanun
Tutor: Joris Burger, Ena Lloret-Fritschi, Tim Wangler (Prof. Flatt)

Material-informed formwork geometry. Image © Yu-Hung Chiu + Chanon Techathuvanun
Material-informed formwork geometry. Image © Yu-Hung Chiu + Chanon Techathuvanun
Material-informed formwork geometry. Image © Yu-Hung Chiu + Chanon Techathuvanun
Material-informed formwork geometry. Image © Yu-Hung Chiu + Chanon Techathuvanun

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) of formwork for concrete has the potential to realize construction components with structurally optimized geometry, which can reduce the amount of concrete used and improve construction sustainability. Several previous researches show the feasibility of building using this novel technique. However, new challenges (compared to a traditional concrete construction process) have to be addressed: breaks frequently happen to the formworks during the casting because of hydrostatic pressure. Much knowledge exists on the performance of conventional formworks (with steel and wood) for traditional concrete; however, there is a knowledge gap in the understanding of 3D printed formworks that can have non-standard shape. This thesis will investigate different formwork geometries and patterns to expand knowledge on the breakage behavior of formworks when subjected to hydrostatic pressure. Meanwhile, the aim is to improve formwork stability and explore formwork surface aesthetics by applying parametric geometries and patterns. The empirical data from findings will be used to the Eggshell project to determine the concrete filling rate without creating breakage.

5) Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying

ETH Zürich, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, Prof. Fabio Gramazio and Prof. Matthias Kohler
Students: Tsai Ping-Hsun, Eliott Sounigo
Tutors: Selen Ercan, Dr. Ena Lloret-Fritschi

Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying. Image © Tsai Ping-Hsun + Eliott Sounigo
Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying. Image © Tsai Ping-Hsun + Eliott Sounigo
Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying. Image © Tsai Ping-Hsun + Eliott Sounigo
Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback Based Robotic Plaster Spraying. Image © Tsai Ping-Hsun + Eliott Sounigo

This research presents a novel method for feedback-based plaster spraying using a spray gun controlled by a 6DoF robotic arm. Through this proposed process, multiple layers of a cementitious material are sprayed at different velocities and distances onto a surface creating volumetric formations without the use of any formwork or support. In order to control the build-up of such a malleable material, a depth camera is integrated into the fabrication process, feeding a control system, which adjusts the end-effector distance to the target surface after each spraying iteration. The goal of this research is to explore how this robotic craft can be used to design and create bespoke surface finishes as a new form of ornamental craft.

6) Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: László Mangliár
Tutor : Marirena Kladeftira

Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting. Image © László Mangliár
Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting. Image © László Mangliár
Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting. Image © László Mangliár
Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting. Image © László Mangliár

Computation offers new possibilities of design for building components, however existing methods of steel additive manufacturing have major limitations. The motivation is to overcome those by examining a new fabrication method of steel-gel casting in FDM formwork. The thesis develops a design language for the investigated process and demonstrates its potential in a design study of a prototypical steel component, embedding the functions of structural connection, integrated lightning and ornament. The entire manufacturing chain was set up and discovered, the shape definition followed by the digital mold making; the formwork 3d printing and steel gel-casting. The result of the thesis is a prototypical steel component, which is a combination of a functional element and a sculptural object, inspired and informed by the manufacturing method.

7) Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: Mahiro Goto
Tutor : Ioanna Mitropoulo

Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures. Image © Mahiro Goto
Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures. Image © Mahiro Goto
Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures. Image © Mahiro Goto
Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures. Image © Mahiro Goto

Non-planar layered printing enables us to control the layer configurations so that we can print shapes that we cannot print with traditional flat-layered printing, such as branching structures, or overhanging shapes without any support structure. A significant obstacle to the use of non-planar print paths is the complexity of their design, which calls for new techniques and methodologies that facilitate this task. In many cases, such as the printing of a large structure, we need to segment the object into smaller pieces to fit them within the printing area. In this research, we propose the segmentation strategy using non-planar boundaries that can create a manifold of layer configurations in one object by distance calculation along the object surface. Through many prototypes using FDM robotic printing, we explored functional and aesthetic aspects of layers, as well as how the orientation of printing paths can be used to an advantage for the task of segmentation.

8) Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures (ENG)

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Tutor: Patrick Bedarf
Collaborator: Ayça Senol (ETH Zurich), Dr. Michele Zanini (FenX AG), Dr. Etienne Jeoffroy (FenX AG)

Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte

Discrete construction elements used in low-cost architecture can be designed and produced thanks to high-tech digital fabrication and materials research. This master thesis project presents a contribution to this goal through the design and fabrication of lightweight architectural assemblies. These have been developed during 12 weeks and as part of a larger research endeavor investigating C3DP with mineral foams, derived from abundant non-flammable, and fully recyclable industrial waste. Starting from the early development of the print material, various designs from 3D-printed mineral foam were systematically explored through an extensive prototyping exercise.

The fabrication method is robotic 3D-extrusion-printing and the printed elements were sintered in a furnace to achieve their full mechanical strength. As a final demonstrator, an ultralight screen façade was manufactured with mineral foam discrete elements and cast on UHPFRC Ultra-High-Performance Fibre concrete. Due to its geometry, they allow natural lighting and ventilation, highlighting the benefits of using this material to create lightweight, innovative, sustainable, and low-impact architectural elements on the environment. The main goal of the research is to explore design challenges for 3D printing with mineral foams, promote awareness on the future built environment, and give a conclusive outlook discussing the future avenues of research.

9) Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Students: Maria Pia Assaf, Ioulios Georgiou
Tutor: Andrei Jipa, Angela Yoo, Georgia Chousou
Industry Partner: Bekaert AG

Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres. Image © Maria Pia Assaf + Ioulios Georgiou
Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres. Image © Maria Pia Assaf + Ioulios Georgiou
Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres. Image © Maria Pia Assaf + Ioulios Georgiou
Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres. Image © Maria Pia Assaf + Ioulios Georgiou

Ultra-High performance fibre reinforced concrete is concrete containing fibrous material that increases its structural performance. The optimal contribution of the fibres, in terms of structural strength, is when they are oriented along the direction of tensile stresses and can bridge cracks in the overall structure. Previous research has shown that the flow of concrete casting influences the fibre orientation and distribution in simple architectural forms. This research focuses on the influence of complex formwork geometry on fibre orientation and distribution during the casting process.

With further understanding of the behavior of fibres in these forms, and a more informed approach

in their implementation, the limits of filigree concrete architectural components were explored and pushed further. The thesis investigates the design possibilities of this technology through experiments focusing on tubular branching geometries as 3D-printed formworks and in combination with different casting strategies and their effect on fibre alignment. The results were observed and analysed using physical sections. The design and fabrication of slender concrete architectural components became more informed, leading to the exploration of a new design language and reaching concrete forms of 11 mm diameter. This research concluded with the design and fabrication of a filigree tracery, inspired by the gothic rose window.

10) Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement with formworks for freeform thin concrete components

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: Fatemeh Salehi Amiri
Tutor: Hyunchul Kwon

Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement with formworks for freeform thin concrete components. Image © Fatemeh Salehi Amiri
Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement with formworks for freeform thin concrete components. Image © Fatemeh Salehi Amiri
Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement with formworks for freeform thin concrete components. Image © Fatemeh Salehi Amiri
Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement with formworks for freeform thin concrete components. Image © Fatemeh Salehi Amiri

This thesis explores carbon fiber-reinforcement onto 3D-printed freeform formworks for the materialization of thin concrete components. Freeform components play an important role in contemporary architecture. Recent 3D printing innovation enables the efficient materialization of those allowing to create geometrically-complex concrete formwork. However, the freeform tensional-reinforcement strategy remains unexplored, particularly for the thin structure.

On the one hand, despite the reinforcement application onto the concrete surface, where most of the tensile stresses occur, increases the structural-performance, the corrosion from the traditional steel-reinforcement limits the potential of the exoskeletal reinforcement. On the other hand, carbon fiber has non-corrosive properties, as well as a high weight-to-strength ratio and formability. In this context, this research proposes a novel method of an add-on carbon fiber process with 3D-printed formwork that allows achieving unprecedented exoskeletal reinforcement. Moreover, the thesis develops a computational method based on structural-optimization strategy enabling the reduction of the materials to be applied only where they are needed. This research includes a series of experiments with the design and fabrication of a prototypical functional demonstrator. The thesis proves the concept of an unprecedented method of concrete-reinforcement promising complex concrete shapes with the efficient use of the material in the automated fabrication process.

11) Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: Rémy Clémente
Tutor: Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger, Mathias Bernhard

Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling. Image © Rémy Clémente
Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling. Image © Rémy Clémente
Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling. Image © Rémy Clémente
Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling. Image © Rémy Clémente

This research investigates ways of mastering multiple levels of resolution. Since architecture combines various scales and construction methods, is an adaptive resolution a way to address the complex nature of such formations? Using volumetric modeling (VM), a computational workflow (using Python on Rhino/Grasshopper) is proposed to master and control the resolution of a 3D model. Whether this happens in the constructive solid geometry tree (CSG) or during the discretization of the signed distance function (SDF) object, the goal is to define local levels of detail while using dynamic instruments. Two case-studies will present applications within the digital fabrication domain. A fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer combining different filament thicknesses will give an insight into how an adaptive resolution could solve the matching challenges. Thereafter, a multi-sized brick example will present a way to merge cells to automatically generate a bond. This publication must be seen as part of the current exploration of VM conducted at the Digital Building Technologies chair at ETH Zurich.

12) PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric

ETH Zürich, Chair for Digital Building Technologies, Benjamin Dillenburger
Student: Emmanuelle Sallin
Tutor: Matthias Leschok

PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric. Image © Emmanuelle Sallin
PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric. Image © Emmanuelle Sallin
PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric. Image © Emmanuelle Sallin
PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric. Image © Emmanuelle Sallin

Fabric is a soft material commonly used in construction for its ability to be tensiled.  From the 18th century to the present day it has been used in the field of industrialised construction in combination with steel cables or other rigid materials. Textile is often used to form tents, stadiums, or pavilions. Additive Manufacturing (AM) has already demonstrated its potential in architecture. Especially polymer extrusion has been used, not only for creating formwork for concrete, but also facades components. However, in architecture, this AM process is struggling with long built-up rates. There are first attempts to combine polymer extrusion with a substrate material (Add-on 3DP) for faster build-up rates, especially necessary for the architecture scale. Nevertheless, the use of substrate material like fabric has not been fully explored yet. This research aims to combine a rigid material - the 3D-printing material - with a soft material - the fabric - to create spatial elements of architectural size. It provides experimental data on the behaviour of the new composite material, as well as a different design approach to create spatial architectural elements.

For more information about the program and application procedures visit www.masdfab.com

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Cite: Arellano, Mónica. "The Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zürich Unveils its Latest Thesis Achievements" [Arquitectura y fabricación digital, los últimos proyectos de tesis en la maestría de ETH Zürich] 04 Dec 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/952445/the-master-of-advanced-studies-in-architecture-and-digital-fabrication-at-eth-zurich-unveils-its-latest-thesis-achievements> ISSN 0719-8884
Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures . Image © Dinorah Martinez Schulte

ETH 苏黎世联邦理工学院最新研究成果,建筑设计与数字化建造

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