Funnel structure, robotic process with integrated pre-fabrication and complex spatial assembly

Research and teaching project done at Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zürich




ETH, Zürich, Switzerland

1.8 m – 5 m x 3 m

Wood beams connected with screws

Rhino, Python, Grasshopper, Robot Studio

ABB IRB 4600 on mobile platform with auxiliary rotating platform, Universal Robots UR5 for the prototyping


Teaching lead

Michael Knauss

Marisa Brunner, Christian Grewe Rellmann, Rossitza Kotelova, Enrique Ruiz Durazo, Andreas Thoma

Lukas Ballo, Nishtha Banker, Tom Doan, Jacob Fink, Dominik Ganghofer, Pierre-Jean Holl, Rossitza Kotelova, Renuka Makwana, Daniel Michel, Unnati Mistry, Takashi Owadat, Irene Prieler, Micha Ringger, Pascal Ruckstuhl, Enrique Ruiz Durazo, Mari Saetre, Grau Sara, David Schildberger, Nishita Shah, Abigail Stoner, Taku Sugimoto, Andreas Thoma, Achilleas Xydis





The elective course Complex Timber Structures dealt with the design and fabrication of spatial structures of beam shaped wooden elements. The students analyzed traditional and contemporary timber systems and reinterpreted those using digital tools. The digital fabrication technology and the resulting opportunities and constraints formed the basis for the design of the students. The students built their designs on a model scale with small robots using specially developed programming tools. Integration of the robot-building process constraints such as length, angle constraints of the components and the assembly sequence of the structures defined in a significant manner the specific student design solutions. Following an elective course, a four-week workshop Complex Timber Structures offered the students an opportunity to deepen the themes from the semester. The students began with an analysis of contemporary and traditional timber systems and defined node typologies suitable for the digital fabrication process. They followed by designing, programming and building a funnel-shaped wooden structure with a span of 4.5m consisting out of 93 individually cut wooden beams. The cutting of the beams, drilling the holes for the screws and the precise placement of the components within the structure was carried out in a continuous robot-based process. The constraints given by the robot-fabrication process such as length, angle constraints of the components and the assembly sequence of the structure were already incorporated in the planning phase of the design process and have been an integral part of the architectural design. The teaching project was conducted as an integral part of the 3-year NFP66 research project Additive Fabrication of Complex Robotic Timber Structures.




















Most of the complexity of a spatially complex timber structure is contained within the joint between the elements. This complexity can be encoded spatially through precise cuts and placements, while the joining technique itself can be simple.

© 2016 by LUKA PIšKOREC

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