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Jul 13, 2017

Swiss Science and Technology University Announces Plans to Build Home with Robots and 3-D Printing

Professors at the Swiss institution ETH Zurich revealed plans to build a three-story digitally fabricated (DFAB) house at their campus in Dubendorf.

Professors at the Swiss institution ETH Zurich revealed plans to build a three-story digitally fabricated (DFAB) house at their campus in Dubendorf. The team claims it will be "the first house in the world to be designed, planned, and built using predominantly digital processes.”

The eight faculty specializing in architecture, robotics, material science, structural engineering, and sustainability will team up with business partners to complete the plans, which are a part of the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication project. The project’s goal is to move several new building technologies from the laboratory into the field.

“Unlike construction projects that use only a single digital building technology, such as 3-D-printed houses, the DFAB HOUSE brings a range of new digital building technologies together,” says ETH professor Matthias Kohler, founding director of NCCR Digital Fabrication and the initiator of the DFAB HOUSE. “This allows us to use the advantages of each individual method as well as their synergies, and express them architecturally.”

The house will employ four new construction methods (developed by researchers at ETH) that will be used in the field for the first time. The process starts with the award-winning Mesh Mould technology: A 2-meter-tall robot called In situ Fabricator autonomously assembles a steel wire mesh cage that will hold the home’s concrete walls. The special composition of the concrete stays inside the dense wiring.

The roof is made of a Smart Slab, or a statically optimized and functionally integrated ceiling slab created with a large-scale 3-D sand printer. The facade on the ground floor will be created using Smart Dynamic Casting technology, an automated robotic slip-forming process that produces bespoke concrete mullions. On the second and third floor, ETH Zurich’s Robotic Fabrication Laboratory will use Spatial Timber Assemblies, where a team of cooperating robots will assemble timber elements.

The finished home will be outfitted with smart home solutions and innovative Internet of Things technology. It will serve as a residential and working space for guest researchers at Empa and Eawag, research institutes within ETH Zurich.

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