Phase Change

Explorations in Robotic Forming of Thermoplastic Materials

This workshop will explore opportunities to overcome tooling limitations in the formation of individualized thermoplastic building components using robotic formation during phase change and speculative additive robotic processes (3D Printing). Explorations will include the translation of the rigid ideal of computational design space to the soft reality of an uncertain built environment as mediated by the industrial robotic work cell. In this case, the industrial robot precisely translates the digital geometry but the final form is characterized by the uncertainties of the thermoplastic material behavior during phase-change. The resulting artifacts will emerge from the integration of the precise and the imprecise through a feedback loop between the digital design environment and the results of a series of physical material experiments. Material properties are considered intrinsic to the design process and the robotically controlled fabrication process will be saturated by feedback from the behavioral logics of the material itself. The exploration of complex material behavior during phase-change will extend to the introduction of novel additive manufacturing technologies through the combination of generic robotic manipulators and custom end effectors. The introduction of additive processes begins to speculate on fabrication scenarios that distance themselves from current linear file-to-factory based methods and industrialized production-modes as well as introduces opportunities for the eventual introduction of Additive Manufacturing in Architecture.

This workshop is kindly supported by the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design-Center for Design Research, University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Experimental Architecture-REX | LAB, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design- Design Robotics Group.

Location: Carnegie Mellon University

What participants can expect to learn in this workshop

Participants will be introduced to concepts relating to manufacturing of thermoplastic materials through a variety of processes including relevant material properties, types, and behaviors. This discussion will also introduce issues of production volume relative to architectural customization potential. The workshop will seek to overcome limitations with exiting polymeric material systems to realize robotically formed-individual components and to this end, will cover specific skills relating to robotic fabrication including integrated design-robotic manufacturing workflows, real-time material feedback, and research methods relating to the exploration of novel materials and processes. Fundamentals of Additive Manufacturing Technologies will be discussed and opportunities for architectural applications will be explored in detail. Issues of the application of the industrial robotic work cell as a prototyping methodology will be explored and specific technical skills will be developed including: Set up and calibration of the work cell, programming interfaces including Rhino-Robot and proprietary Robotic Programming environments (ABB RobotStudio), and a variety of Grasshopper-based automation tools. Beyond the exploration of thermoplastic material processes, the workshop is suitable for those interested in incorporating the industrial robotic work cell into their design curriculum and/or practice.


Familiarity with Rhino and Grasshopper is ideal but the workshop will tailor to those with all levels of computational design experience.
Participants are asked to bring their own laptops. Software will be provided on standalone workstations but participants are encouraged to be prepared with at least Rhino 5 and the latest version Grasshopper installed, DRG-PRG will be provided.

Robotic Specification

– 2x ABB IRB 120 Industrial Robots

Workshop Schedule

Day 1
– Introduction to material properties and design goals.
– Introduction to the workflow between computational design and material production methods.
– Commissioning of the robotic work cell and fundamentals of tooling.
– Material experiments.

Day 2
– Programming and tooling for the selected prototypes
– Comparability – setting up tests that try to proof the success of the selected method (duplicates, variation…)

Day 3
– Fabrication of the selected prototypes and assembly

Workshop Presenters

Chip David Clark – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Chip David Clark is a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech where he currently engages emerging digital tools with respect to Architecture and Design. The integration of computer controlled tools and tool-based design assumptions comprises the umbrella for his teaching and research, where experiment, invention and physical material are directed towards the development of architectural contributions. He has taught Design Foundations Laboratory and Digital Design/Fabrication courses and manages the digital fabrication technologies at the Research and Demonstration Facility. Current research efforts revolve around the applications of robotics and advanced digital fabrication to the fields of Architecture and Design.

Marjan Colletti – University of Innsbruck
Marjan Colletti is an Architect, educator, researcher, author, and Co-founder of marcosandmarjan (with Marcos Cruz). Senior Lecturer at the Bartlett UCL and University Professor at Innsbruck University – elected Head of the Institute of Experimental Architecture. Previously guest professor in the US, UK and EU. Workshops at École Spéciale d’Architecture Paris, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen, School of Architecture Oslo, Tonghai University and Feng Chia University Taichung Taiwan. Invited expert/peer reviewer/board member of RobArch2012, ICESEP China, Ministry of Education Russia, Canada Foundation for Innovation, American University of Sharjah UAE, Queen’s University Belfast, Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor and Francis, Ashgate Publishing, Initiative Architektur Salzburg.

Georg Grasser – University of Innsbruck
Georg Grasser studied architecture at the University of Innsbruck (A), Ecole d’Architecture de Paris la Villette (F), Vienna University of Technology (A) and holds a Postgraduate Degree in architecture, specialization in computer aided architectural design from the ETH Zurich (CH). He was teaching seminars and workshops in Kosovo and Taiwan and worked for various architectural offices in Austria, France and China. Since 2009 he has been teaching and researching parametric modeling, script-based design processes and computational fabrication strategies at the Department for Experimental Architecture. Hochbau at the TU Innsbruck (AT). He is currently co-running the university‘s brand new robotic laboratory.

Nathan King – Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Nathan King is a designer and lead researcher in the GSD Design Robotics Group where his investigation involves the development of novel ways of making through strategic process intervention, workflow development, and emerging Additive Processes. Nathan is currently an Instructor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Assistant Professor at the Rhode island School of Design, Director of Design Research at MASS Design and recently, established the Design Robotics Laboratory at the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design, Center for Design Research where he leads the development of strategic research initiatives and integration of design technology.

Kadri Tamre – University of Innsbruck
Kadri Tamre is an architect currently working as a Teaching and Research Associate at the Institute for Experimental Architecture Hochbau at the University of Innsbruck. She holds a Master’s degree in architecture from the University of Applied Arts Vienna (A) and has working experience from architectural practices in Austria, Estonia, Spain and China, receiving several awards and scholarships. She has been teaching design specific parametric modelling workshops in the Academy of Fine Arts Munich (D), Budapest University of Technology and Economics (HU) and Southeast University in Nanjing (CN). She is currently co-running the university’s brand new robotic laboratory.

Allison Weiler – University of Innsbruck
Allison Weiler is currently working as a Teaching and Research Associate at the Institute for Experimental Architecture: Hochbau, at the University of Innsbruck. Her past work has focused on the development of realizable complex building prototypes through the integration of parametric tools with building modeling and documentation platforms. She has taught and held workshops in the US and Austria focusing in script-based design processes, BIM Integration in parametric design processes, and visualization techniques. She graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania, and holds a Master’s degree in Architecture