Robots help create ultra-thin wooden exhibition hall
June 30, 2014
The Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall in Stuttgart, Germany, is claimed to be the first building to have its core structure made entirely from interlocking timber sections created by robots. Made up of over 240 individual segments of beech plywood created using a robotic fabrication method, the 17 meter (55 ft) tall, 245 square meter (2,637 sq ft) structure required just 12 cubic meters (424 cubic feet) of timber to construct.
Looking remarkably like a very large peanut, the exhibition hall consists of plywood panels just 50 mm (2 in) thick that, according to the academics from the University of Stuttgart who constructed it, make use of 7,600 individual finger joints interlocked in such a way that they create a shell that needs no additional support.
Though other timber buildings – such as the "WikiHouse" – have benefited from the use of computer-controlled milling machines and robotics, most of these are made using conventional construction methods, such as stud frames and truss roofs. The Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall is different because it uses structural forms that mimic those found in nature in its construction.
Using the principles of biomimetics – literally forms copying biological structures found in nature – the team from Stuttgart University took inspiration from natural plate shells and used them in the construction of their hall. In this case, the academics have used the idea of a sea urchin's skeleton of calcium carbonate plates joined by microscopic interlocking projections along the plate edges as the template for their plywood plates and human-constructed finger joints.
Designed by a team from the university's Institute for Computational Design (ICD), the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITDK) and the Institute of Engineering Geodesy, the building was also constructed with robotically-created insulation, waterproofing and cladding. And, in keeping with the building's theme of sustainable construction techniques using less material, not even off-cuts from these prefabricated sections were wasted; the parquet flooring inside the building was made from them.
By using a robot able to shape wood across multiple planes, the team asserts that they were able to construct all of the panels for the building in just three weeks, and put the entire structure together in just four more. This was achieved by determining the shape of each panel on a CAD program first, and then programming the robot to cut the panels using the most effective method the machine was capable of performing.
As a result, the building panel fabrication accuracy is claimed to be within just 0.86 mm (0.03 in), which is exceptional for any type of construction, let alone timber. This superfine precision has, according to the team, been a necessary requirement for the finger-joint connection geometries that allowed them to use such thin, lightweight panels.
The Exhibition Hall was built with support from timber manufacturing specialists Müllerblaustein Holzbau GmbH, and is part of the twice-yearly Schwäbisch Gmünd Landesgartenschau open gardens event.
The short video below explains the concept in further detail.
Source: University of Stuttgart
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