Over the past 15 years, researchers in architecture and construction have been exploring the possibilities of employing industrial robotic equipment to help create new kinds of architectural forms. There is now a wealth of research in this area around the most effective software, particularly with regard to maximising the direct path from digital design to fabrication. For architects, designers, and construction managers, this research also reveals new form-finding strategies.
Recent publications from ROBArch, CuminCAD, and prominent universities were analysed to identify premium software resources. The key findings of the literature review show that tailored software is necessary to correspond to the needs of manufacturing bespoke designs. The results of this research hints that there is a need for a paradigm shift in the way fabrication is thought, as the design methods used in the early exploratory stages directly correlates with the way the industrial robots function and manufacture.
There are various different software packages available for controlling IRAs. However, considering direct workflows from architectural digital design to fabrication, add-ons within the parametric design plugin called Rhinoceros/Grasshopper is the most common one. Many architectural institutions and schools use KUKA PRC and Robots. KUKA PRC also serves as a hub of knowledge through their conference, workshop, website and online forum. It is also easier to find online tutorials of KUKA PRC, whereas Robots is freely available and easy to control with Grasshopper comments. It can also control all kinds of robots. On the other hand, Autodesk PowerMill Robot is most commonly used in architectural manufacturing firms. Open software packages for controlling robots are very common in robotic engineering. Software like ROS that can control robots, in general, are adapted for designers through more user-friendly interfaces. Also, free-standing software like Mind Ex Machina can connect different design platforms such as Processing, and Grasshopper.
The software in the following table are stand-alone programs.
|Mind ex Machina||Link||All kinds of robots|
|RhinoRobot||Link||KUKA, UR, ABB, Staubli, Yaskawa, Fanuc|
|PowerMill Robot||Link||ABB, FANUC, KUKA|
|ROS||Link||All kinds of robots|
The following table lists software add-ons that can be used with the parametric design software environment ‘Grasshopper’.
|HAL||Link||ABB, KUKA, UR|
|RAPCAM||Link||ABB, FANUC, KUKA|
|ROBOTS||Link||ABB, KUKA and UR|
The Future of Manufacturing
With support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating to present a range of new fabrication and vision systems solutions. The goal is simple – to design for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.
Pushing the limits of industrial robotics is a move to empower people. Navigating the increasing complexity of manufacturing inevitably supports human experience and enhances skills acquisition. At its heart, this approach celebrates the best of what robots and machines can achieve – problem-solving, and the best of what humans can do – social intelligence and contextual understanding.