Studio Agenda

(FAB)BOTS 2.0. Customized Machines and Robots for Design and Manufacturing

Continuing on the research from last year, the Digital Tectonics Research Studio 2010-11 will investigate the work flow between computational design and material production methods, exploring the relationship between design inputs and computer programmable devices that can be used for the production of building structures and/or components. Challenging the traditional norms of linear file-to-factory production processes, the studio will examine scenarios in which parametric design and material production are developed simultaneously, exploring the potentials of linking design programming and machinic behaviour in real time.

With support tutorials and exercises focusing on the creation of custom designed innovative hardware devices that incorporate sensory inputs and stepper motor control, the studio aims to propose alternatives to existing methods of digital fabrication to be deployed on-site. As these fabrication devices will enable a direct response to sensory inputs, systems of behavioral rules can be considered to influence the method of creating building elements or structures. Rather than scripting geometrical patterns of formation as in traditional uses of digital fabrication, behavioral rule systems can be used to direct machinic fabrication towards certain performance criteria scenarios, thus generating emergent material configurations that are not guided from a pre-conceived design. Using a setup consisting of design scripts, machine programming, a custom designed fabrication device and specific method of material formation, students teams will choreograph the creation of material structures that demonstrate that their formation has been influenced by external inputs like sound, light, temperature etc.

In particular, this year the work will focus on how locality allows for hyper-specific outcomes, as the variables of the specific context (temperature, solar exposure, prevailing winds, etc.) are simultaneously embedded and recorded in the material result. Considering that the production process is dependent on external factors on site, recorded data will be physically translated and materialized in outcomes that contain both programmed design intentions and information from the environment.  As such, material formations will be emergent and ‘harvested’ from the context.  Moreover, the studio will emphasize the global preoccupation with dwindling energy resources by thinking about alternative production methods, such us the ones used prior to the industrial revolution (whether human or animal power, water or wind power).

By raising awareness on this topic when it comes to new fabrication technologies, students will be encouraged to develop off-grid solutions, drawing inspiration from minimal-energy concepts like ‘perpetual motion machines’, which describe hy-pothetical apparatuses that operate or produce useful work indefinitely, or, more generally, machines that produce more work or energy than they consume. The projects will explore how today, through the application of digital technologies, we have the tools to engage with the environment for production, in a much more sustainable approach. Media & Methods: Hardware and all the processes of development will be as important as the demonstration of a working fabrication system, teams will be asked to present their entire process through photography, videos and diagrams explaining the working of scripts, hardware etc. The final result of the studio will be an A4 booklet and a DVD documenting design development and final setup of the specific devices and their outputs.