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CLOUD AFFECTS | WITH PHILIP SAMARTZIS & ROLAND SNOOKS


Cloud Affects, insitu, Shenzhen Biennale. Photo: RMIT University

Cloud Affects is a large-scale architectural installation by Associate Professor Roland Snooks, Chief Investigator, Design Robotics, and Associate Professor Philip Samartzis, sound artist. Crafted using algorithmic generative design and robot-assisted additive manufacturing, this work explores the impact of cloud computing. Often thought of as immaterial and benign, the cloud is, in fact, a vast ecosystem of over 40 billion devices, powered by a network of energy-hungry data centres, which will consume as much as twenty percent of the earth’s energy generation by 2025. This novel research outcome operated as an agent for meaningful public engagement, as well as an exemplar of the structural potential of 3D printed assemblages.

Roland_Snooks_3D_Assemblage
Robotic-assisted 3D Assemblage, Urban Art Projects, Brisbane
agentBody Algorithms & Topological Complexity

Snooks and Laura Harper, Roland Snooks Studio, explain in their paper, “Printed Assemblages: A Co-Evolution of Composite Techtonics and Additive Manufacturing Techniques” (FABRICATE 2020), how Cloud Affect was designed using an agentBody algorithm. This behavioural formation process combined form, structure and ornament into topologically-complex lattices and surfaces. These architectural behaviours establish local relationships between material elements. Such interaction is driven by direct criteria, like structural or programmatic requirements, or more esoteric concerns relating to the generation of form or pattern.
Snooks and Harper explain the evolution of this process:
“This methodology, which has been in development since 2002, draws on the logic of swarm intelligence and operates through multi-agent algorithms (Snooks, 2020). Swarm intelligence describes the collective behaviour of decentralised systems, in which the non-linear interaction of its constituent parts self-organise to generate emergent behaviour (Bonabeau et al., 1999). Repositioning this logic as an architectural design process involves encoding architectural design intention within computational agents. It is the interaction of these agents that leads to a self-organisation of design intention and the generation of emergent architectural forms and organisational patterns.” (2020, p.204).

Installing Cloud Affect. Photo: RMIT University
Advanced Manufacturing Cloud Affects

Snooks and his team manifested their emergent form using carbon fibre and large-scale robot-assisted 3D-printing. Essentially, the internal lattice became a structural skeleton, containing a series of hollow formworks, enclosed in a second translucent skin. In addition, the inner and outer geometries were periodically laminated to ensure structural rigidity. Each joint was resolved by casting laser-cut steel plates into the carbon fibre. Certainly, the use of this technology increased quality, reduced risk, and resulted in more efficient workflows.
Cloud Affects demonstrates that structure is not subservient to the geometry of the skin (such as taping to inflatable or printed surfaces) or the convergence to physically efficient forms (such as minimal surfaces), but instead, structure and skin negotiate a nuanced interrelationship with the capacity to generate complex and intricate form. Given the limitations of the printing bed, the final work was designed a series of pre-fabricated components with the capacity to be disassembled. Snooks discusses this process in detail in Inside the Learning Factory: Architectural Robotics.
The final outcome draws complex data design and manufacturing processes into focus, questioning how viewers might feel about the most sophisticated technologies – software, AI, and algorithms – all powered by polluting carbon-based systems that contribute to Climate change. In contrast, the 3D printing process resulted in a form of digital craft akin to coiling in pottery or basketry, creating a tactile surface capable of refracting light and drawing viewers to the piece. This juxtaposition between tangible and intangible materials, technology and making, old and new processes, creates a powerful pause for thought.

Cloud Affects Assembly in process. Photo: RMIT University
Design Robotics & Futuremaking

This project attempted to reify a structure from the nebulous via a process of futuremaking: to materialise and express intangible algorithms and make real the energy required to prop up the virtual cloud. In manifesting the tangible, it sought to offer a new architectural geometric expression, one that can only emerge from the use of advanced computation within both the design and robotic fabrication processes.
Future cities will increasingly rely on advanced cloud computing, from simple algorithmic procedures to artificial intelligence, for their design, construction and infrastructural logistics. These cloud-based algorithms become the unseen structural framework behind the evolution of urbanism and architecture. Using technology to assess impact and evolve material outcomes inevitably evokes conversations beyond the realms of art, architecture and design.



This article is adapted from:
Samartzis, Philip “Cloud Affects” Bogong Sound, Bogong Centre for Sound, 30 March 2020, http://bogongsound.com.au/projects/cloud-affects. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.
Snooks, Roland, and Laura Harper. “Printed Assemblages: A Co-Evolution of Composite Techtonics and Additive Manufacturing Techniques.” FABRICATE 2020: Making Resilient Architecture, by Jane Burry et al., UCL Press, London, 2020, pp. 202–209. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv13xpsvw.31. Accessed 19 Oct. 2020.

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_ Knowledge Sharing Learn News Project

BOY WALKING | WITH RONNIE VAN HOUT & UAP

Artist Interview: Ronnie van Hout from UAP Company on Vimeo.

Captured in mid-motion, lost in thought, is a giant figure dubbed, Boy Walking by artist Ronnie van Hout. This towering landmark situated in a civic parkland along the Dominion Road edge of Balmoral’s Potters Park in Auckland, New Zealand, was commissioned by Auckland Council and manufactured by Urban Art Projects (UAP) over the course of 18 months. Fabricated using a relatively new process including robotic milling and 3D technology, this work tells the story of van Hout’s commitment to experimentation.

The human scale at work
Why so Big?

The mammoth cast aluminum sculpture stands tall at 5.6 metres, with a horizontal dimension of 2.9 metres by 1.75 metres. Van Hout’s intention was to deliver a sense of scale and proportion with respect to human form and the surrounding landscape. As we grow, our relative scale in relation to objects shifts. In this sense, the sculpture is only large in relation to other human bodies. Van Hout jovially describes it as, “…kind of a child-made giant”.

Fabricating the head
Robots, AR, & VR

To bring Boy Walking to life, van Hout had his son digitally scanned in a striding pose, then scaled up to full size using a 3D modeling software. The fabrication of the sculpture involved a time-consuming and exacting process, including efficiency in grinding, filing, sanding, painting, and cleaning. Design Robotics worked closely with UAP’s craft makers to enhance existing knowledge in robotic fabrication.
From material selection, to design documentation, and advanced manufacturing efficiencies were built into the workflows. Virtual Reality (VR), via the use of Fologram mixed reality software, assisted patternmakers in evaluating and refining the 3-D digital model. This resulted in a segmented approach, whereby the form was cut into smaller, manageable sections in preparation for robotic milling.
A robotic arm was used for pattern milling, which at the time of fabrication was a relatively new process for UAP’s Brisbane foundry. Each pattern was cast individually in aluminium, and welded together to create the complete sculpture. In the painting process, Augmented Reality (AR) HoloLens headsets with Fologram were used to further extend human ingenuity by producing a vision of stripes and blocked colors over the actual work. This enabled the painters to clearly visualize and mask out specific sections, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of the painting process.

Matt at work, perfecting the stripes
Happy Painters Craft Perfect Stripes

According to UAP’s expert painter, Matt, the marking process took approximately one hour, where normally it would have taken him up to three hours. Van Hout remains captivated by the quality and accuracy of the painted stripe pattern Boy Walking’s shirt: “The overall finish is amazing! The paint finish turned out so much better than I would have expected.” To achieve such fine results, UAP experimented with a proprietary Grasshopper tool, which allowed them to reposition and refine the 3D model multiple times in virtual space. The outcome was then recalibrated in AR prior to the painting process.
AR also allowed van Hout and UAP’s team to visualize the size of the sculpture in relation to the site. This technology helped in assessing the overall aesthetic of the work, informing design changes and improvements throughout the production process. For those involved in the craft making process, incorporating advanced manufacturing technologies was like having an extension of the hand.  For van Hout, the process assisted him in maintaining the conceptual integrity of his vision. When asked about his thoughts on the process, without hesitation he jumped at the chance: “It would be great to experiment with this [again] in the future and see what is possible.”

Boy Walking insitu, Auckland, New Zealand
Design Robotics, UAP, & IMCRC

Through the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), Design Robotics is collaborating with UAP to explore the use of robotic vision systems and smart software user-interfaces to streamline the process between design and custom manufacturing. Enhancing UAP’s ability to manufacture high-value products while reducing the time and cost of manufacturing, the project is an industry-leading initiative that provides not just a competitive advantage to UAP, but benefits manufacturers across Australia.

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Knowledge Sharing News Webinar

WEBINAR | INSIDE THE LEARNING FACTORY

In September 2020, Design Robotics hosted a webinar aimed at sharing outcomes and facilitating collaboration across the Australian manufacturing sector. Each of the four sessions focused on projects that integrate design and custom manufacturing, resulting in unique, value-added outcomes.

Session 1: Vision Systems, covered vision sensing, which enables robots to adapt to different environments and manufacturing tasks. In this context, robots are able to locate a workpiece in space and automatically calculate each objects’ true dimensions to assist with path planning.

Session 2: Architectural Robotics, explored Additive Manufacturing (AM, or “3D-printing”). This technology promises to reduce part-costs by lowering material wastage and time to market. Design freedom is also increased, supporting the development of complex assemblies formerly made of many subcomponents.

Session 3: Human Centred Design, focused on designing human/robot interactions. Investigating a range of human perspectives, physical work practices, and technical possibilities is integral to this work. As such, traditional artisans are valuable partners in determining best practice approaches.


Session 4: Open Innovation, explored practices that unite diverse partners such as research institutes, industry, and government. In this context, facilitating creativity, increasing speed, and reducing risk, empowers SMEs to be competitive innovators.

With the support of the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), the Design Robotics team is committed to knowledge sharing and open innovation Australia-wide. Such collaborative arrangements enhance R&D across all tiers of industry and enterprise, resulting in a fertile cross-pollination culture that delivers training and skills, increased commercial value, and high impact outcomes.

If you would like to collaborate with us through the Design Robotics Open Innovation Network feel free to get in touch.

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Learn

ROBOT FABRICATION | USING RHINO & GRASSHOPPER

There are considerable advantages in using products like Rhinoceros and Grasshopper, Robots for Grasshopper, and KUKA|PRC. Software and plugins enhance the control of industrial arm robots like the Universal Robotics UR10 or the KUKA range of robots, allowing users to create 3D simulations the robot moves or performs a complete task.
Rhinoceros (also called Rhino 3D, or Rhino) is a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software used for the design and modelling of 3D products. It is widely used in the industrial / product design professions, and also used in a variety of industries because of a large range of plug-in applications that enhance the options of the basic Rhino software. A major advantage of using Rhino over similar software packages is a plug-in application called Grasshopper. Grasshopper allows users to use a visual programming language that makes coding accessible to people with limited programming knowledge. By using Grasshopper, users can make rapid changes or explore many variations of 3D models using algorithms or simple commands. Grasshopper’s interface simplifies the creation of complex models, and with the right plug-ins – allows for other abilities such as robot control that can potentially fabricate.
Rhinoceros 3D software: Quick modelling, and straightforward control of robots. In this example a simulation of a UR10 robot is tracing a loop drawn in Rhino by the user.

Rhinoceros 3D software: Quick modelling, and straightforward control of robots. In this example a simulation of a UR10 robot is tracing a loop drawn in Rhino by the user.
Why Grasshopper?

Rhino and the Grasshopper plug-in have many advantages over other methods of robotic control systems. Rhino is primarily a 3D modelling application, so creating or editing the 3D simulation environment is controlled within one type of software. Once a model is created, it is easy to make adjustments to the location for setting up a robot in a real-world environment, as well as objects for the robot to interact with or avoid. The advantages of using Grasshopper include rapid workflows from virtual prototypes to production. Changes to the control of the program or the intended design can be made quickly and new fabrications can be created.
The example workflow (illustrated below) of this is the ROBOBLOX project by QUT Design Robotics and UQ Architectural Robotics. The project created over 100 unique polystyrene foam blocks cut by a hot-wire cutter attached to a KUKA industrial robot, for installation as an art piece.
 

RoboBlox Workflow
  • Creation of the 3D models for each unique design of the blocks in Rhino.
  • Grasshopper was used to create the path the robot would follow to cut each of the blocks, and this pathway is simulated to predict any errors.
  • Grasshopper was used again to send the commands to the robot for the real blocks to be cut from a large slab of polystyrene.
  • The unique polystyrene blocks were finished and installed on site.

The entire process from choosing a design, to installation, was fabricated quicker and with greater accuracy compared with a similar project completed without a robot.
Workflow from modelling to simulation to fabrication to installed product

Workflow from modelling to simulation to fabrication to installed product
Visual Coding

On a typical Windows PC, the Grasshopper interface, or canvas is clearly laid out (shown above). Menus at the top of the Grasshopper window allow users to switch between different panels of icons. Each icon provides an option or toolset – with additional downloadable plugins extending these panels of tools. A script in Grasshopper uses components that look like box-like containers, each one offering varying inputs, an altering function, and outputs. The example image shows a script made with components from the Robots plugin. This layout shows how the visual script is easily read by following the guidewires that connect the container’s transfer data. Changes made to the data at the beginning of the script alters later outcomes and using this method it is quick to visualise many alternative designs before sending the final design to the robot for fabricating. The advantage of this is that rapid prototyping and robotic fabrication can be achieved or experimented with a variety of adaptations through the use of one type of software.
 

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.
 

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_ Industry News Knowledge Sharing

Design Robotics at ADR 2019

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira presented the paper “From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture” at the Annual Design Research Conference 2019, Monash University in early October 2019. The paper was co-written by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira and Liz Brogden. Below is a summary based on the paper that was presented.
From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture
Design Robotics places design at the forefront of robotic research to enable design-led manufacturing. UAP, a global manufacturer of urban artworks and architectural facades, is finding ways to adopt robotics into its manufacturing. The QUT Design Robotics research group and RMIT are collaborating with UAP on an Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) funded project (2017-2022). 
‘Open Innovation’ describes how an organisation can purposively manage inward flows of external knowledge and outward flows of internal knowledge to increase its ability to innovate in line with its business model (West & Bogers, 2014). In this research, we wanted to find out how open innovation can be employed as a strategy for architectural innovation within a design-led manufacturing organization, such as UAP.
 

Open Innovation Case study: Artist Emily Floyd with Poll the Parrot.
Photo Credits: UAP Company.

 
We examined two projects from UAP’s commercial work that employed an open innovation strategy to explore the potential of advanced manufacturing technologies in collaboration with external partners. These built works demonstrate novel approaches to integrating robotic systems and virtual reality into the ideation, communication, design development, and manufacture required to deliver each project. We worked with our industry partner to collect on-site observations and findings, which show that it takes internal know-how and decision-making processes required to integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into workflows. 
Read the full paper here.
Conference Name: The 2nd Annual Design Research Conference
Date: 3-4 October 2019
Location: Monash University, Caulfield, Australia
Related work
UAP (Urban Art Projects): Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for architects and artists
Reference:
West, J., & Bogers, M. (2014). Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4), 814–831.

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Design Robotics in Melbourne for Hermès at Work

Jared Donovan and Roland Snooks spoke at the Hermès at Work series of events in Melbourne on 10th March 2018. The series is described as, ‘Hermès at Work is a travelling exhibition, bringing the Hermès craftspeople from the intimacy of their ateliers in France to meet the public and demonstrate their craft.’ Jared spoke at the seminar titled, “The separation between man and machine is shrinking, how will this change craftsmanship.” Roland spoke at the event, “Craftsmanship in the Digital Age.”
The organisers promised that, ‘this engaging public event provides a fascinating insight into the traditions and values of Hermès in the crafting of fine objects; a presentation that encourages interaction by giving visitors in Melbourne the opportunity to meet and exchange with the Hermès artisans and experience first-hand their unique savoir-faire.’
For more information check out the Hermès at Work website: Hermes at Work

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Opinion

Robot Sculpture, coming to a gallery near you


The Conversation

Robot sculpture, coming to a gallery near you

File 20170718 24602 vecpe5.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A robot sculpts a recreation of the Ancient Greek work Laocoon and his Sons, which was exhibited in Linz last year.
Ars Electronica/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Jared Donovan, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Queensland University of Technology, and Jonathan Roberts, Queensland University of Technology
Two weeks ago, in an industrial shed in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, a team of engineers installed a large, orange robot arm. It was a standard industrial robot arm, but it was not going to be used for standard purposes. The robot’s job would be to carve moulds for the casting of large-scale, metal sculptures. It is being installed by Urban Art Projects, a company that specialises in the manufacture of sculpture and custom architectural facades.
Sculpture might not be the first thing that springs to mind if someone mentions robotics. We hear again and again that robots are set to change the way we drive our cars, grow our food, and perform surgery. But robots are changing art too.
There is, in fact, an extremely long history of robots being used in the arts. The creation of automata, mechanical devices driven by cogs, goes back centuries. These “robots” found their greatest expression in the incredible feats of mechanised Karakuri puppets in Japan and the clockwork automata of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The arts actually invented the name “robot”. The first use of the word recorded anywhere in the world was from a 1920 Czech play that featured humanoid style automatons, played by human actors.
In the mid-20th century, “cybernetic artists” began to work with electronic robots. Often these were produced as art objects themselves, similar to the older tradition of automatons. The polish artist Edward Ihnatowicz created The Senster, an electromechanical sculpture that could move and respond to people around it in a surprisingly lifelike manner.

Cybernetic sculptor Edward Ihnatowicz built the Senster – a 15 ft long, hydraulic robot – for Philips. It was on permanent display at the Evoluon, in Eindhoven in 1970.

Fast forwarding to our present moment, the Italian artist Quayola last year exhibited a reproduction of an ancient Greek sculpture, Laocoon and his Sons, which had been carved from polystyrene by a robot. The robot was deliberately instructed to leave the sculpture unfinished.

Artists’ assistants

Artists have already done a lot with robots, but it’s safe to say that there’s more to come. Robots could have a big impact on the way artists work, especially by helping them produce sculptural art. Rather than being art, these robots are more of a tool for the artist.
In architecture, robots are already used for 3D printing houses, laying bricks, and cutting, shaping and moulding all manner of forms. But why use robots to make sculpture?
Art (especially sculpture) can be dangerous and expensive to produce. It is essentially a manufacturing process that relies on the input of many highly skilled artisans and fabricators to cast metals, weld, grind, polish and patina a final piece. If robots can help even with part of this process and still maintain the handmade quality, then that artwork could be produced at a more affordable price.
Robots could be used to quickly rough out a sculptural form that is then refined by the human artist. Or a human artist could do the bulk of the work and then leave it to the robot to finish the fine surface detail. This process could include programming of robots to leave the “mark” of the artist.
Robots will also allow artists to work at a physical scale much larger than their own bodies. Often, large public artworks are first produced as small scale models, or digital files that need to be translated into much larger finished works. By allowing artists to work at scale, robots will allow a smoother transition from working out preliminary ideas on miniature models through to finished works while maintaining the integrity of the artists’ input.
There are also possibilities to support artists working together across great distances. Robots, connected via the internet, could provide a way to do “sculptural conference calls” and allow collaborations between artists who would not otherwise get a chance to work together. This could be extended to aid the process of learning practical sculpting skills. The robot could provide a way to guide the untrained hand of novice users based on the expertise of a master artist.

Makerspaces, shared spaces for creating art, could also benefit from having robots smart and capable enough to create art. This way, members of the public could get easier access to these technologies and use them to realise their own artistic creations.

New kinds of robots

Robots as we know them still have a long way to go before artists will really be able to make widespread use of them and before a robot can produce something on its own that comes close to the quality of a human handmade object.
Fortunately, recent developments suggest robots are about to become much more adaptable and useful. In surgery, robotic assistants are now being routinely used by surgeons to carry out procedures that would not be possible or are extremely difficult to perform by hand.

An industrial robot arm used for sculpture.
Ars Electronica, CC BY-NC-ND

Industrial robots can move with great accuracy, but they rely on pre-programmed movement paths. They usually can’t see what they are working on or adjust their movements in real time in the way that a human sculptor would. This lack of awareness makes robots dangerous to work around. Robots typically require highly controlled environments with expensive safety systems – not the kinds of environments you would find in most artists’ studios or busy makerspaces.
However research into collaborative robotics is set to make robots safe enough that people could even dance with them. Artists will need much more natural and intuitive ways of interacting and controlling the robot than we currently have available.
No matter what kind of robots we end up developing, one thing is certain. Artists have always employed new technologies in creative ways, to give us new kinds of art and to ask new questions about ourselves. That’s reason enough to continue to explore the intersections of robotics and art.
Jared Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Queensland University of Technology, and Jonathan Roberts, Professor in Robotics, Queensland University of Technology
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Webinar

Robots Are Art Machines…

The Game Changers in Art, Architecture & Interaction Design… Innovative ways of looking at new technologies often come from unexpected places.

Industrial robotic equipment can be used for more than mass-manufacturing — it can also be used to create art, art which goes beyond the visual world and into one of data. Artists who work with robots give us new ways to see these technologies as tools; mediums of expression; and machines for art.
Join QUT’s Professor Jonathan Roberts, Dr Jared Donovan and Dr Glenda Amayo Caldwell in our latest webinar as we discover innovative ways of looking at new technologies and their impact on creative expression.
https://vimeo.com/259776643

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

Festival of Ideas: FutureNet, Brisbane

Jared Donovan spoke at the Festival of Ideas event about the Design Robotics project. The event ‘explored the potential of disruptive technologies, such as drones, 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, crypto-currency, robotics and novel materials as well as innovation in energy, medicine and digital business.’ It was hosted by the Future Net group on November 22nd 2017 at the new King Street Laneway venues.