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From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures

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In the current paper the authors present a biomimetic design methodology based on the analysis of the Echinoids (sea urchin and sand dollar) and the transfer of its structural morphology into a built full-scale prototype. In the first part, an efficient wood jointing technique for planar sheets of wood through novel robotically fabricated finger-joints is introduced together with an investigation of the biological principles of plate structures and their mechanical features. Subsequently, the identified structural principles are translated and verified with the aid of a Finite Element Model, as well as a generative design system incorporating the rules and constraints of fabrication. The paper concludes with the presentation of a full-scale biomimetic prototype which integrates these morphological and mechanical principles to achieve an efficient and high-performing lightweight structure.
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Reprinted from
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF
SPACE STRUCTURES
Volume 28 · Number 1 · 2013
From Nature to Fabrication:
Biomimetic Design Principles
for the Production of Complex
Spatial Structures
by
Riccardo La Magna, Markus Gabler, Steffen Reichert, Tobias Schwinn,
Frédéric Waimer, Achim Menges and Jan Knippers
1. INTRODUCTION
It is widely recognized that biological systems
represent a valid source of inspiration for the solution
of given technical problems. Still, the vast range of
morphological diversity between organisms inhabiting
the same environment suggests that a standard and
optimal solution does not exist, but rather different
strategies may perform optimally under certain
circumstances. This is obviously true as all living
species have developed their own survival strategies,
whether structural or behavioural, albeit living in
similar contexts. The main questions that arise when
trying to apply design principles derived from biology
to engineering and architecture are essentially: 1.
which principles are better suited for the addressed
topic and 2. how to bridge the gap between the
biological role model and its technical implementation.
Extensive literature exists on the topic explaining the
From Nature to Fabrication:
Biomimetic Design Principles
for the Production of Complex
Spatial Structures
Riccardo La Magna1, Markus Gabler1, Steffen Reichert2, Tobias Schwinn2,
Frédéric Waimer1, Achim Menges2and Jan Knippers1
1ITKE – University of Stuttgart
2ICD – University of Stuttgart
(Submitted on 22/10/2012, Accepted on 22/12/2012)
ABSTRACT: In the current paper the authors present a biomimetic design
methodology based on the analysis of the Echinoids (sea urchin and sand
dollar) and the transfer of its structural morphology into a built full-scale
prototype.
In the first part, an efficient wood jointing technique for planar sheets of
wood through novel robotically fabricated finger-joints is introduced together
with an investigation of the biological principles of plate structures and their
mechanical features. Subsequently, the identified structural principles are
translated and verified with the aid of a Finite Element Model, as well as a
generative design system incorporating the rules and constraints of fabrication.
The paper concludes with the presentation of a full-scale biomimetic prototype
which integrates these morphological and mechanical principles to achieve an
efficient and high-performing lightweight structure.
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 27
theoretical methodology to identify the biomechanical
and functional rules, understand the underlying
principles, perform the abstraction from the biological
model and finally provide their technical
implementation [Vincent 2009].
The current paper presents a case-study project by
systematically exposing the methodological steps that
enabled the identification of the biomimetic principles
and their successful transfer to a full-scale prototype
(Fig. 1). The research project is based on a biomimetic
approach for the development of construction systems
and computational design processes, which builds on
previous investigations on the theoretical
methodology for extracting morphological principles
related to structural and architectural matters.
In the first part of the paper an overview of the
identified design strategies and their characteristics
are discussed. Both Top-Down and Bottom-Up
*Corresponding author e-mail: r.lamagna@itke.uni-stuttgart.de
implemented process sequences for the identification
of the appropriate biological principles and their
abstraction are explained (Fig. 2), along with
the robotically fabricated design solution and the
structural behaviour of the chosen role model. The
results are finally discussed both in context of their
28 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
architectural design potential and in the larger context
of biomimetic design on the one hand and computer-
aided manufacturing on the other.
2. BIOMIMETIC DESIGN STRATEGY
In the realm of biological organisms, the abundance of
shape is a direct consequence of the evolutionary process
that living beings undergo to constantly meet changing
environmental conditions. The morphological features
of each individual are the result of the constant
interaction between the organism and its environment,
under the influence of which populations of living
beings adapt through selection and breeding, thus
enhancing their probability of survival. The result is a
compromise satisfying partially conflicting requirements
which limits the potential of natural selection as an
optimizing agent [Knippers and Speck 2012]. Moreover,
typical optimization tasks in engineering science
primarily focus on the determination of a set of
parameters that produce the fittest outcome chosen from
an array of different solutions by implementing
deterministic algorithms that assure convergence to the
problem. The same cannot be said about biological
systems, which achieve a high level of structural
performance through redundancy and local
differentiation of their constituent features.
Despite the inability in biology to identify a single
and precise solution to a given problem, it is still
perfectly reasonable to assume that living organisms
have developed through time highly efficient
(a)
(b)
Figure 1. (a) Detailed view of the developed finger joint
connection; (b) top view of the built full scale prototype.
6 Bionic product
1 Technical problem
6 Bionic product
2 Search for biological
analogies
3 Identification of
appropriate principles
4 Abstraction, detachment
from biological model
5 Test technical feasibility
and prototyping
3 Understanding the
principles
2 Biomechanics, functional
morphology, and anatomy
4 Abstraction, detachment
from biological model
5 Technical implementation
1 Biological research
Bottom up
Top down
(a) (b)
Figure 2. (a) Bottom-up process of biomimetic research (biology push); (b) top-down process of biomimetics (technology pull).
[Knippers and Speck 2012].
J. Knippers, M. Gabler, R. La Magna, F. Waimer A. Menges, S. Reichert and T Schwinn
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 29
strategies to overcome the environmental challenges to
which they are exposed. For instance, in the specific
case of sea urchins and sand dollars (a sub-species of
sea urchins), the peculiar arrangement of the plates
that compose their skeleton is found to be optimal
when considered from a plate point of view. Also, the
finger-like jointing system that sea urchins and sand
dollars have developed to connect their constituent
plates serves as a perfect technique to resist the shear
forces acting across the edges. These two principles
have been the main driver to the development of the
current research project.
2.1. Technology pull: wood jointing using
finger-joints
The developed fabrication technology of connecting
wooden plates at various angles using finger joints has
been one driving aspect for the presented research.
Transferring this technology in combination with a
biologically inspired, performative plate arrangement
into a pavilion including its own specific architectural
requirements and constraints was the overall aim of
this project [Krieg et al. 2011].
The ancient technique of joining planar elements at
edges with multiple often interlocking teeth has been
employed over about 3500 years [Kirby 1999]. Whereas
wood was one of the most commonly used construction
materials in pre-industrial times due to its availability,
the importance of wood was decreasing until very
recently. Now, triggered by the environmental
challenges the building sector is facing, timber as a
regionally available and renewable resource receives
the attention of the construction industry again. While
steel joints have become more convenient to join wood
parts, the connection of these very different materials
often causes additional problems such as different
temperature behavior and corrosion.
Joining wood sheets using force and form fit finger
joints results in a connection with a high structural
capacity that withstands normal and in particular shear
forces without the use of additional fasteners. To
fabricate this material-consistent and efficient
connection using traditional techniques, mostly very
intensive manual labor was required. With increasing
labour costs, manually fabricated, wooden
connections have become less and less affordable (Fig.
3-a). While the use of additional mechanical jigs (Fig.
3-b) allowed reproducing equal finger joint pattern
repetitively in an economical way, this has limited the
connections to orthogonal connections or at least a
very small number of different angles.
The robotic fabrication process (Fig. 3-c) developed
for this project opens up the design space through the
ability to efficiently fabricate differentiated finger
joints with variable angle arrangements (Fig. 4)
[Menges 2011] [Krieg et al. 2011].
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 3. (a) Manual fabrication of dovetail joints; (b) tools
for machine-based fabrication of different finger joints
restricted to a 90° connection; (c) newly developed robotic
fabrication technique.
30 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
2.2. Biological push: echinoides’ plate
structure
The shell of the sea urchin consists of a modular system
of polygonal plates, which are linked together at the
edges by finger-like calcite protrusions (Fig. 5-c). Shell
action is very close to plate action because a finely
faceted plate polyhedron is nothing but a slightly
discontinuous shell, stabilized only by shear forces,
acting along the edges. High load bearing capacity is
thus achieved by the particular geometric arrangement
of the plates and their joining system.
The plates of the sea urchin’s skeleton are organized
according to an overall principle that allows the
organism to resolve the competing requirements of
resisting external loads and shocks on the one hand
and the necessity of letting the growth process take
place on the other. This principle is that a maximum of
three plates meet in one point (Fig. 5-b). By following
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 4. Robotically fabricated finger joints. (a) connecting
two plates with different material thickness at a specific
angle; (b) prototype with differentiated finger joints; (c)
spatial connection of finger-joined plates.
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 5. (a) Close-up of a sea urchin’s test; (b) schematic top
view of a sea urchin’s test showing the plates’ outlines and
arrangement; (c) microscopic view of a plate edge showing the
calcite projections similar to finger joints [Seilacher 1979].
J. Knippers, M. Gabler, R. La Magna, F. Waimer A. Menges, S. Reichert and T Schwinn
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 31
this principle, any pure plate structure (i.e. systems
composed of just plates and hinges along the edges of
connection) will be inherently stable, whereas any
variation from this arrangement pattern will result in a
deformable and kinematic structure similar to origami.
Thanks to this arrangement, the plates are stabilized
by resisting internal forces which lie in the plate itself.
Each face of a pure plate structure carries plate forces
only, i.e. plates must not rely on carrying bending
moments and torsion for their own stability. On the
other hand, the lines of support enable the transmission
of normal and shear forces but no bending moments
between the joints. This property allows the sea urchin
to grow without interfering with the transfer of
stabilizing forces, as the direction of growth will be
perpendicular to the shear lines, hence perpendicular to
the direction of the stabilizing shear forces.
2.3. Transfer of geometric morphologies
As a methodology for transferring the cellular
morphology of the sand dollar, including its rule of three
connecting plates, into a generative computational
design tool, the targeted implementation of a Voronoi
diagram is suggested such that each Voronoi cell
represents the polygonal boundary of a cellular entity
[Zachos 2009]. The custom developed computational
tool was subsequently organised into two representation
models: a flat 2-dimensional topological map (Fig. 6-a)
and a 3D geometry model of the same topology
(Fig. 6-b). The plate-cell components’ 3-dimensional
arrangement is thereby embodied through a two-tier
hierarchical system: on the higher level, the Voronoi
diagram describes the global topological arrangement
of the cells; on its lower the cells’ plates locally
reference the topological map. These plates constitute
the 3D model and form the basis for the fabrication of
the full-scale pavilion (Fig. 6-c).
On the lower hierarchy level, each cell consists of
multiple plates. Through the connection of each
polygon’s vertex with its cell centroid, the polygon
becomes triangulated (Fig. 7). The number of resulting
triangular faces around the polygon centroids can be
described through the Schläfli symbol {p,q}, where p
represents the number of sides of the internal
polygons, and qthe number of triangles located
around the centroid corresponding to the number of
Voronoi cell edges (Fig. 7-a).
Aphysically driven digital environment was set up to
design an interactive, generative form finding process
for the physical full-scale prototype (Fig. 1-b) [Menges
2012]. Using a spring relaxation method, every polygon
side is set to relax into an approximate equal rest length.
The relaxation transforms the 2D topological
representation into a 3D mesh (Fig. 7-b). With changing
Schläfli symbols, the structure changes its Gaussian
curvature between positive (e.g. Schläfli symbol {3,5}),
negative ({3,7}) and zero ({3,6}). This topological
modification in a physically driven environment allows
responding to structural and architectural demands like
entrances, light openings etc.
Additional gravity forces have been applied during
the relaxation process to enhance the shape in its
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 6. (a) 2D topology model; (b) 3D geometry model;
(c) full-scale prototype.
32 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
structural performance (Fig. 6-b). This added force
causes an inherent directionality in the cell’s local
shape and hence an anisotropic structural performance
along the main load bearing directions (Fig. 6-c).
3. TRANSFER: PLATE SKELETON TO
SPATIAL STRUCTURE
Over the past few years, architects and designers have
been increasingly exploring the design of freeform
complex surfaces. The task challenges engineers to
design and develop efficient structural systems both
from an economic and ecological point of view.
Traditionally, the assembly procedures of structural
members into a whole construction have mostly lead
to massive details caused by the need of transferring
bending moments between the joints. The aim of the
bionic approach presented here was to find an
effective way to build spatial structures by assembling
panels which transfer only normal and shear forces
between the edges. Another important feature of the
project, which is also commonly pursued in structural
design, is a great level of redundancy, as in the case of
failure of single plates the structure still needs a good
residual load capacity.
3.1. Biomechanics and abstraction
The most important feature of the sea urchin’s plate
morphology is its compliance to the 3-plate principle,
meaning that it is fully trivalent and can thus be
regarded as a pure plate structure [Wester 2002]
[La Magna et al. 2012]. The stability of polyhedral
structures is uniquely determined by the valency of
their vertices, where the valency indicates the number
of structural elements converging at one node.
According to the type of elements that make up the
structure we may distinguish between lattice and plate
systems, meaning that the first ones are materialised
by the edges whilst the latter by the faces of the
polyhedron. Systems with triangular faces which only
rely on bars and joints make up pure lattice structures,
whereas systems composed of just Y vertices (only
three edges meeting at one point) which depend on
plates and hinges along the edges are called pure plate
structures [Wester 2002]. Such structures are said to
comply with the 3-plate principle.
The morphology of the sand dollar was abstracted
to CAD models and analysed with FE simulations.
With different panelised arrangements, the influence
on the structural behaviour of the plates and of the
joints was evaluated. The plates could be connected
only by three degrees of freedom, meaning only
normal, lateral and shear forces. The FE results
confirmed that for pure plate structures of arbitrary
geometry and loading no bending moments occur in
the joints, but the lateral forces in the edges and the
global deformation of the structure were greater than
the equivalent continuous model with bending
moment transferring capacity. Nonetheless, the
advantages of designing joints that would not transmit
bending moments were still predominant.
Concerning the aspect of the geometrical influence,
concave plates had to be avoided as they lead to high
stress concentrations in the corners for overall loading
(a)
(b)
(c)
1
2
34
6
5
1
23
q
p
{3,6}
Figure 7. Strategy assuring convex and flat plates for
anticlastic geometries; (a) polygonal base mesh; (b) normal
translation of centre; (c) resultant frustum through truncation.
J. Knippers, M. Gabler, R. La Magna, F. Waimer A. Menges, S. Reichert and T Schwinn
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 33
and boundary conditions (Fig. 8). This side-effect was
assessed for anticlastic surfaces with planar panels.
That is the reason why in nature, and particularly in the
morphology of sea urchins, such kind of patterns do
not exist and the plate morphology is always convex.
Thus, the structural arrangement and its principle with
hexagonal planar surfaces are only applicable for
geometries with positive Gaussian curvature.
However, one research aspect of the project focused
on the investigation of how a plate structure can also
be adapted to surfaces with negative Gaussian
curvature and still comply with the 3-plate principle.
By raising the level of each individual cell, it was
possible to achieve the desired design freedom in each
curvature direction (Fig. 7). This was possible as in the
lower hierarchical level no hexagonal plates were
arranged. With the addition of different hierarchical
levels, it was then possible to pursue the arrangement
of the sea urchin’s plate structure and to apply it to a
range of different freeform surfaces.
3.2. Implementation of experimental
series
To run a first static analysis, it was necessary to
determine the characteristic values of the connection
and to demonstrate the mechanical principle of the
finger joints. With different setups the connections
were tested on their lateral, normal and shear force
transmission and on their stiffness behaviour (Fig. 10).
Very good results were achieved for the shear strength
and low bending stiffness of the rotational degrees of
freedom. Said results were later incorporated in the
Finite Element model by defining the failure criteria of
the joints.
The mechanical behaviour of the finger joints was
compared with several biological investigations of
biomechanical behaviour of the sea urchin structure
and the connection of the plates [Ellers et al. 1998].
Biologists have proven that the plates of the sea urchin
are only strengthened by flexible collagenous fibre.
The perforated calcite plates are attached to each other
at sutures by ligaments to transfer the normal and
lateral forces. In the case of the developed connections
of the research pavilion, the ligaments were
implemented by a PU flexible adhesive.
3.3. Technical implementation
Besides constructional and organizational principles,
hierarchy is a fundamental property of biological
structures. The assembling of plates and cells is
organized on a two-level hierarchical principle. On the
first level, the finger jointed plywood sheets form a
Deformation Von mises stress Morphology
Figure 8. Abstraction of plate structure principle.
(a)
(b)
Figure 9. Hierarchical levels. Figure 10. Experimental tests for shear behaviour.
34 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
cell. On the second hierarchical level, a simple bolt
connection joins the cells together, allowing the
assembling and disassembling of the pavilion. Due to
the arrangement of the bolts in the cells and of the
material characteristic of plywood and its low
stiffness, a transfer of bending moments between the
cells could be minimized by creating a hinged
connection. Within each hierarchical level only three
plates - respectively three edges – meet at one point,
therefore assuring bending-free edges for both levels
(Fig. 9).
Arequirement for the design, development and
realization of the complex morphology of the pavilion
was a closed, digital information chain linking the
project’s model and Finite Element simulations. Form
finding and structural design were closely intertwined.
An optimized data exchange scheme made it possible
to repeatedly read the complex geometry into a Finite
Element program to analyse and modify the critical
points of the model. The FE setup was modelled with
plane shell elements and lines of axial springs acting in
the direction of the edges of connection between the
plates (Fig. 12). Based on a FE Model with more than
10.000 spring elements to simulate the finger-jointing
of the cell elements, custom tools for the FE Solver
had to be developed and implemented (Fig. 11).
The test results put under evidence the high
construction capacity of the biological role model and
its aptness to be transferred to a built prototype. Unlike
traditional lightweight construction, which can only be
applied to load-optimized shapes, this new design
principle could be applied to any custom geometry.
The high lightweight potential of this approach is
evident as the pavilion, despite its considerable size,
Structural analysis self weight
Structural analysis self weight + wind loads (w) Structural analysis self weight + wind loads (w) Structural analysis self weight + wind loads (w) Structural analysis self weight + wind loads (w)
Structural analysis self weight Structural analysis self weight Structural analysis self weight
MODEL MODEL MODEL MODEL
(a)
(b)
Figure 11. Different steps of geometric variations and FE feedback.
Figure 12. (a) Bending moments progression in the structure;
(b) FE plot of the structure.
J. Knippers, M. Gabler, R. La Magna, F. Waimer A. Menges, S. Reichert and T Schwinn
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 35
could be built out of 6.5 mm thin sheets of plywood,
which resulted in a great material saving. Therefore,
above all the structure had to be secured against uplift
due to wind suction forces.
4. TRANSFER: ROBOTIC FABRICATION
AND CONSTRUCTION
One of the main challenges when applying biomimetic
principles to architecture and structure remains the
transfer of the identified morphological principles into
fabricational principles and their subsequent physical
implementation. Recent advances in CNC Technology
and particular the second advent of robotic fabrication
[Bechthold 2010] suggest that the pre-fabrication of
building elements with highly differentiated
geometries - one of the constituent properties of
natural systems - becomes economically feasible.
4.1. Fabricating finger joints
Based on initial studies that explored strategies for the
robotic fabrication of finger joints, a custom tool was
developed with one of the industrial partners that allows
the cutting of finger joints with the front of the tool as
opposed to the widely used flank milling in CNC
contour cutting which typically results in the rounded
corners for concave tool paths. Contrary to this flank
milling strategy, the cut with the front of the tool results
in a form-fitting finger joint connection (Fig. 13-c).
Further studies in the fabrication of finger jointed
plates at varying angles indicated that in order to be
able to manufacture convex as well as concave plate
connections without manually repositioning the work
piece, an additional external axis is necessary to
synchronously reorient the work piece such that the
perimeter of the plates can be accessed from all sides
and angles by the 6-axis industrial robot (Fig. 14).
Conversely, the geometric characteristics intrinsic
to the plate and joint system suggest that this particular
bio-informed material system requires at least 7 degree
of freedom (DoF) for its fabrication. As such, the
research project is not only an investigation into how
the expanding solution space of advanced CNC
fabrication machinery can be meaningfully explored
utilizing biomimetic design strategies, but it also
introduces the biological concept of morphospaces to
denote what can theoretically be and has empirically
been produced with respect to the specific parameters
of a given machinic configuration [Menges and
Schwinn 2012].
4.2. Parameter space translation
In addition to the biomimetic principles that inform the
design process as part of the generative rule set, the
specific parameters of robotic fabrication are
translated and implemented in the computational
design tool. One of the main aspects of this translation
is the mathematical description of the spatial relation
between work piece and milling effector through
trigonometry and linear algebra.
The different tool paths for the fabrication of a plate
are a function of the angles between the plate and its
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 13. Three steps of the finger joint fabrication process;
(a) milling the plate’s outline; (b) milling the edge’s miters;
(c) spot facing the finger joints.
36 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
neighbouring plates (Fig. 15), which can yield different
structural and geometric properties. E.g. the contact
surface between plates decreases for angles close to 90
degrees providing less contact area. However, the
length of the indentation of the finger joints increases
towards 0 and 180 degrees resulting in extremely sharp
finger joints that compromise structural stability and
accuracy of fabrication.
Ultimately, the geometric plate relations, finger joint
geometric properties, and the specific end effector
geometry, consisting of milling tool, chuck and spindle
bounding box, confine the preferred range of the joint
angles to approximately 15 to 165 degrees (Fig. 16). As
embedded parameters in the computational design tool
these fabricational constraints directly inform the
design process.
4.3. Robotic fabrication programming
The fabrication model is derived and parametrically
linked to the geometry and design model that was
generated with respect to the fabricational constraints
outlined above. The programming of the robotic
fabrication consists of a custom process including the
topological analysis of the plate connectivity, which is
the basis for automated tool path generation in form
of an ordered point cloud as well as the automated
extraction of machine code into an ISO-based CNC
format (ISO 6983) (Fig. 17). The machine code
contains the Cartesian coordinates of the tool path
sequence which typically has to be translated through
reverse transformation into the joint space of the
machine. Due to the inherent complexity of the 7-axis
inverse kinematics and to ensure a reliable and
repeatable fabrication process, this step is
implemented in a dedicated post-processor as
opposed to relying on the automated calculation of the
robot control unit during runtime [Brell-Çokcan and
Braumann 2010].
Joint path
Tool direction vector
Miter path
Tool direction vector
Outline path
Tool direction vector
(a) (b)
P3
P6
P9
P12
P2
P0 P0
P0
P3
P1
P3
P2
P2
P4
P5P7
P8 P10
P11 P13
P2
Figure 14. Machine setup - a six-axis industrial robot
connected with a separate turntable as an external axis.
Angle
Geometry
Margin
Joints
10°
15°165°
20°30°45°60°70°80°90°100°110°120°135°150°160°170°
Figure 15. (a) Geometric representation of the three different tool paths; (b) close-up of the finger joint milling routine.
Figure 16. The finger joint fabrication is geometrically constrained due to possible collisions between the machine and the stock
piece.
J. Knippers, M. Gabler, R. La Magna, F. Waimer A. Menges, S. Reichert and T Schwinn
International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013 37
The automation of the machine code programming
becomes a prerequisite for the efficient fabrication of
highly differentiated structures [Bechthold 2010]. In
contrast to process-specific CNC machinery, the
industrial robot can be considered a platform on
which a variety of fabrication processes can be
implemented that, in turn, require a higher level of
numerical control and machine code programming. In
this sense, the complexity of the fabrication task shifts
from the specificity of the machine to the specificity
of the control. Our custom programming strategy
suggests a highly specific application-based solution
to CAM for a generic fabrication platform offering a
vast solution space such as industrial robots.
4.4. Fabrication logistics and assembly
The Research Pavilion consists of more than 850
geometrically unique, robotically fabricated birch
plywood plates joined at their edges by more than
N1P9999
N2G40
N3G90G94
N4T1M6
N5G90
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AUTODIR / ON.0
EXTAXISTURN / 0
EXTAXISTURN / ON PLANE
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N18 G1 X-532.809 Y516.723 Z-3.462 I0.311 J-D.803 K0.508 F4000
N19 G1 X-5.061 Y719.908 Z-3.462 I0.311 J-D.803 K0.508 F4000
N20 G1 X38.566 Y737.962 Z-3.462 I0.311 J-D.803 K0.508 F4000
N21 G1 X34.899 Y747.432 Z13.769 I0.311 J-D.803 K0.508 F4000
N22 G0 X61.56 Y625.924 Z89.929 I0.311 J-D.803 K0.508
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 17. Tool path generation; (a) topological map of a
module; (b) geometric representation of the generated tool
paths; (c) translation of the tool path to CNC-Code.
(a)
(b)
(c)
Figure 18. Prototype’s assembly process; (a) each module is
prefabricated in the workshop; (b) the modules are finished
and weatherproofed; (c) assembly of the modules on site.
38 International Journal of Space Structures Vol. 28 No. 1 2013
From Nature to Fabrication: Biomimetic Design Principles for the Production of Complex Spatial Structures
100.000 individual finger joints. The high potential of
the integrated design principles is demonstrated by the
fact that the entire pavilion could be built exclusively
out of 6.5 mm thin sheets of plywood, despite its
considerable size: 200 cubic meters (7050 cubic feet)
of gross volume are enclosed by only 2m3(70.5 cft) of
wood. Following the robotic fabrication, the plates are
assembled into the 59 individual building elements
that are finished and weather-proofed (Fig. 19).
The pavilion consists of two interior spaces that
emphasize the experience of the constructional logic:
the main space is characterized by the differentiated
openings in the double layer modules as well as by its
prominent relation to the park; an interstitial space is
framed by the gradual separation of the double layered
structure into two single layers. Together the two
interior spaces exemplify the capacity of the system to
not only incorporate geometric differentiation but also
to enable differentiated spatial and programmatic
experiences (Fig. 19).
5. CONCLUSION
In this paper, a biomimetic design methodology has
been introduced combining novel robotic fabrication
techniques for finger joints with biological principles
into a fabricated full scale architectural prototype. One
of the goals was the opening up of the solution space
of a traditional timber manufacturing technique, while
maintaining the inherent advantages of the finger
joints properties.
Biological role models have been analysed, their
topological and structural principles identified and
transferred into generative, geometric rules. Such
rules formed the basis for the development of a
computational tool integrating the sea urchin’s
biomimetic principles, the architectural and structural
requirements, and the fabrication constraints for
design exploration. Along these parameters, a specific
architectural case study has been developed in the
form of a pavilion. For an efficient connection
between the design information model and the input
data of the robotic manufacturing facilities, a custom
finger joint with integrated tool path generation was
developed. Simulation of the mechanical behaviour
was developed to predict the structural capacity of the
biologically inspired construction.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The Research Pavilion was a collaborative project of
the Institute for Computational Design (ICD – Prof.
Achim Menges) and the Institute of Building
Structures and Structural Design (ITKE – Prof. Dr. Jan
Knippers) at Stuttgart University, made possible by the
support of a number of sponsors including: KUKA
Roboter GmbH, OCHS GmbH, KST2 Systemtechnik
GmbH, Landesbetrieb Forst Baden-Württemberg
(ForstBW), Stiftungen LBBW, Leitz GmbH,
MüllerBlaustein Holzbau GmbH, Hermann Rothfuss
Bauunternehmung GmbH, Ullrich & Schön GmbH,
Holzhandlung Wider GmbH.
Responsible for the concept and development:
Oliver David Krieg and Boyan Mihaylov. Project
team: Peter Brachat, Benjamin Busch, Solmaz
Fahimian, Christin Gegenheimer, Nicola Haberbosch,
Elias Kästle, Yong Sung Kwon, Hongmei Zhai.
Scientific development carried out by: Markus Gabler
(project management), Riccardo La Magna (structural
design), Steffen Reichert (detailing), Tobias Schwinn
(project management), Frédéric Waimer (structural
design).
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... Ainsi, l'aboutement, technique connue de la construction bois, semble posé avant l'introduction de l'oursin dans l'espace de conception (cf. Krieg et al., 2011;Riccardo La Magna et al., 2013;Schwinn et al., 2012). Les concepteurs parlent en effet d'un technological push ou d'un processus top-down au sens où la biologie est interrogée dans un second temps, à partir d'un projet déjà partiellement déterminé 12 . ...
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