Reading Response 02 _towards a bespoke building process
The mobile robotic fabrication unit, R-O-B, argues for a new process of construction. One which forgoes traditional, simple task and standardization driven means of robotic integration in construction, and instead embraces the inherent flexibility of industrial robots. By utilizing the potential for flexible, adaptive techniques with robots, designers can create a resource which can be deployed onsite for a variety of design solutions. Rather than deploy robots to complete on task, designers and architects are beginning to utilize the technology as a way to solve problems unique to individual projects and create designs which would not be possible without the robotic equipment.
By embracing the flexibility of robots, designers can take control of the material, assembly, and process of fabrication. Rather than relying on traditional fabrication techniques with one end goal, like laser cutters or CNC milling machines, which have a distinct material and sought outcome, designers can use robots to customize a unique and specialized fabrication process that fits a unique design.
In recent years, the power of robotic fabrication in the
architectural field has become increasingly tangible. In an age when the architect is seeking more
control of the design process, robotic fabrication is providing a
prefabrication quality controlled environment merged with on-site
production. Initially, robots were
imagined as means of replacing physical labor in the manufacturing field. Providing a more cost effective manufacturing
process and letting the machines do the more trying work. Robots were later conceived to perform more specialized
tasks that began to reveal the potential they possessed and the opportunities
the robot provided the designer. The
recent increase in applying robotic fabrication to the design field can be
relayed to the increasing availability of the technology. Cost has decreased and the technology has
become more user-friendly. As a result,
more designers have been applying the technology to their work. Robotic fabrication not only provides the
designer digital control over their work but also an expanded option for
physical intervention. The architect is
allowed to take his conceptual intentions and engineer a fabricated
product. With R-O-B, this potential for
designers is being packaged up into a transportable container allowing the
designer a tool to work raw materials on site.
As robotic fabrication continues to become an integrated part of the design
field, it will be on the designer to gain an understanding of the technology to
best use it in their work. As that
understanding grows, so will the possibilities of robotic fabrication in
Robots were originally conceived of as being able to quickly do precise tasks and allow for maximum flexibility. However as the use and abilities of robots have grown, particularly in the automotive and manufacturing industries, the use of robots has instead shifted towards repetitive, standardized, and consistent tasks.
What is exciting about the new applications of robotic fabrication into the realms of architecture is the re-imagination of the use of robots for unique, experimental, and specialized operations. As is discussed in "Towards a Bespoke Building Process," robotic fabrication offers new possibilities in material studies, and assembly techniques, and "continues and extends the tradition of constructive thinking in architecture." Instead of using robots as they were used in the mid-twentieth century to focus on efficiency, and economic value through the replacement of human labour, we instead should think of robots as tools with which we can accomplish things that can be done no other way.
What the article discusses, and what I find to be one of the most exciting elements of digital/robotic fabrication as it applies to architecture is the ability for designers to play a larger role, and exercise increased control, in the manufacturing and construction process.