The people behind the Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall claim that it is “the first to have its primary structure entirely made of robotically prefabricated beech plywood plates.” It’s probably not, but this is a whole new level of sophistication in digital fabrication, of buildings as computer printout.
Designed and built at the Institute for Computational Design, part of the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at the University of Stuttgart, the building is constructed from 2″ thick beech plywood, with 243 panels machined on a 7-axis tool that created 7,600 finger joints.
It’s really quite amazing, what is happening here; the plywood is both the shell and the structure as the very complex vault is designed on the computer with each of the pieces, sort of shaped like a sand dollar, cut out on a CNC machine and then finished by the robot arm. Natural materials and biomimic design principles (modelled on the skeletons of sea urchins) produce a complex design, with every part different, machined in a way that would be impossible by hand.
One of the most important challenges and innovations is the robotic fabrication of the 7600 individual finger joints, which, through their interlocking connection, are the main reason for the building’s structural stability. Still visible in the building’s interior, the finger joint connections resemble the sand dollar’s microscopic connections and are only efficiently producible with a seven axis robotic fabrication setup. The industrial robot’s kinematic flexibility is an essential requirement for the production of such complex and individual geometries. Consequently, the fact that, similar to the sand dollar’s plate skeleton, all plywood plates are geometrically unique, poses no additional difficulties.
The structural loads that occur around the plate’s edges are transferred efficiently by the robotically fabricated finger joints. This new kind of timber construction allows the building to be made of only 50mm thick plywood plates. Using locally available beech is not only in accordance with future foresting strategies in central Europe, but is also especially suitable for lightweight timber constructions because of the material’s excellent mechanical characteristics.
Plywood is strong, easy to work with, and made from a renewable resource. Computers can drive digital tools to cut it and finish it in unimaginably complex forms. Additive 3D printing is getting all the pixels these days, but this is the real future of digital design.
© Kraft Foods
Even if it does look a bit like a peanut. More at the Institute for Computational Design.