ARC 598– Special Topics: Construction - Automation

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Course Details

Course No.: 10457

Department: Architecture

Semester: 2015 Fall

Location: Parker – 56A

Meeting Day(s): Tuesday

Meeting Time: 10:00 - 12:40 pm

Faculty: Silver

In early 2012, following the success of its driverless vehicle initiative, the Defense and Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a call to engineers around the world to develop bipedal robots capable of performing a wide variety of tasks in real world environments. The main goal of the challenge was to spur the creation of machines that could be used on disaster sites like the now defunct nuclear reactor in Fukishiama, Japan. But couldn’t these technologies also be employed for more creative purposes? As sensors and computers get smaller and more powerful it becomes possible to fundamentally change how we think about digital fabrication in architecture. Instead of appropriating tools exclusively for indoor use architects can now design their own equipment to operate in both the factory and the field. Construction site automation and the development of novel robotic systems that can work alongside humans in dynamic environments is today’s emerging research paradigm.


With a focus on innovative masonry structures this seminar will pursue the design and construction of a mobile, leg-based brick-stacking robot capable of movement across uneven terrain. (The project will specifically focus on the development of an adaptable live/work loft and private garden made from endlessly reconfigurable block walls.) Organized teams will be engaged in the design and fabrication of a machine equipped with payload grippers, active sensors for navigation, and an on-board computer. The basic configuration of the devise will be based on an older prototype developed by students at UB. (See Figure 1) Different groups will focus on sub-system integration, performance simulation, physical prototyping in ABS plastic and building design. (Project refinements and final component production in metal will take place during a follow-up seminar scheduled for Spring 2016.) The lab dedicated to this work is located in Parker Hall on South Campus. There, students will have dedicated, access to a 3d printer, a Universal laser cutter and a rotary axis CNC Mill. (Electronic components will be provided by the faculty.)