Architecture Faculty and Alumnus Team Up at Robotic Fabrication Conference

Yellow machine carving intricate concrete pattern on the floor

Chris Battaglia (M.Arch. '17), Martin Miller, and Sasa Zivkovic used a robotic arm to fabricate designs formulated by ROB-ARCH workshop participants. photo / Christopher Battaglia (M.Arch. '17)

October 9, 2018

Architecture assistant professor of the practice Martin Miller, assistant professor of architecture Sasa Zivkovic, and AAP graduate Christopher Battaglia (M.Arch. '17), assistant teaching professor of architecture at Ball State University, presented their collaborative work at the 2018 ROB-ARCH conference at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, this fall. Together they offered a hands-on 3D design and robotics workshop, and Battaglia and Zivkovic partnered in their presentation of the team's research in the field of robotic construction.

Battaglia and Zivkovic's presentation, titled "Sub-Additive 3D Printing of Optimized Double Curved Concrete Lattice Structures," was part of a series of seven talks on "Construction and Structure." "At ROB-ARCH, we shared the work we have been exploring with an international audience of leaders from respected universities and innovators at the intersection of robotics and architecture," explained Battaglia. "Sub-additive manufacturing continues to change and adapt with every iteration and our paper was really a snapshot of where we are and what we have done — and, we still have many topics to discover and research further."

Battaglia, Miller, and Zivkovic designed their workshop around geometric prompts for participants who, in response, designed a specific shaping profile that could be fitted to a robotic arm that would then carve their shape out of a gravel substrate. Their workshop titled "Sub-Additive 3D Printing of Optimized Double Curved Concrete Lattice Thin Shell Structures" received a 2018 ROB-ARCH award that distinguished it from the 12 others offered at the conference.

"Our award was given with a particular nod towards our educational approach to the workshop," says Miller. "Our intent was for the participants to understand material behaviors, constraints, and parameters through a series of early small-scale studies. Through active participation in design, concrete mixing, nozzle design and adaptation, printing, and shaping, the students gained a direct knowledge of how the technology works and how they might be able to replicate the technology at their home schools or offices."

ROB-ARCH is a biannual conference and is part of a larger collaborative effort across universities, industry partners, and the Association for Robots in Architecture that brings researchers together to share their work and to continue its advancement as they learn about innovations in fast-moving fields like computation, material science, and robotics.

"The energy in the building, seeing all the work everyone is doing — it drives you to continue to be inventive, and also have the conversations that could then spark new thinking about the work," noted Battaglia. "You become so close to what you are doing, you are reminded if you are working on the right questions."

By Edith Fikes

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