Ecological Construction: bio-based additive manufacturing with distributed robotic systems

This research will explore sustainable manufacturing in building industry. The project will investigate Additive Manufacturing of cellulose-based materials using a distributed mobile robotic system.

Research Interests
  • Biomaterials
  • Construction automation
  • Bio-inspired systems
  • Autonomy and Controls/Control Systems
  • Autonomous Robots
  • Robotics
  • Additive Manufacturing/Smart Manufacturing
  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (aerial and ground robotics)
  • Multi-agent Systems
  • Computational Design
  • Robotic Fabrication
  • On-site Automation
  • Cellulose-based materials
  • Mycelium-based composites

Advances in robotic technology open a new level of autonomy in building construction. This autonomy has a potential to actively apply ecologically friendly materials to the constructed environment. Applying bio-based materials through a sustainable additive manufacturing has a potential to reduce the ecological footprints of building industry.  

Bio-based materials, such as cellulose-based and mycelium-based materials with biodegradable and renewable characteristics, require specific additive manufacturing techniques tailored to the physical and mechanical properties of the materials during extrusion. Robotic additive manufacturing has been applied to extrude bio-composites consisting of cellulose-based and mycelium-based composites in biomedicine, product design, and architecture. However, most current additive construction processes utilize a single builder (e.g., crane-like extruder), and do not fully utilize the capabilities of distributed robotic systems that could improve both construction efficiency and speed. 

Multi material additive manufacturing (MMAM) involves different methods of extruding materials simultaneously to characterize material properties, through single-nozzle and multi-nozzle extrusion methods. The MMAM of bio-based materials is limited to the size of 3d printers (microscale) or to the workspace of multi-axis robotic arms (mesoscale).  

To expand the workspace of MMAM for bio-based materials this research aims to a) examine different combination of cellulose-based materials; b) explore distributed mobile manipulator (task-specific) systems; and c) develop a control system to identify the coordination of mobile manipulator systems, plan the task and path of each system and actively adapt material extrusion with the material properties. 

  • Performative/Design approach: The integration of material characteristics and fabrication in the design process to develop a performative building element for example a functionally graded wall. 

  • Material Development: New ecologically-sound materials with properties that are tailored to both the construction techniques and the application. 

  • Distributed control of mobile manipulator systems:  The coordination of mobile manipulator systems and the task/path of each mobile manipulator are designed such that the construction can be completed efficiently.   

Desired outcomes

By the end of the project, the team aims to achieve the following: 

  • Build a prototype distributed robotic additive construction system that is capable of building simple structures. This would serve as the preliminary result for proposals to external funding agencies. The team has multiple mobile manipulator systems that could be used as base platforms for distributed robotic additive construction.   

  • Design and develop a partially autonomous controller containing Graphical User interface (GUI) and a Human-Robot-Interaction (HRI) device so that the distributed system can be teleoperated by a single human operator with minimum inputs.  

  • Train students with unique cross-disciplinary expertise in robotics, manufacturing, and architecture. 

  • Create long-lasting and fruitful collaboration among the faculty members of the project and their research groups.