The fourth industrial revolution is upon us, according to architect Achim Menges. The founding director of the Institute for Computational Design at the University of Stuttgart, he said the combination of robots and carbon fiber could propel us into a new era in architecture. He’s developing a software program that would allow robots to construct stadium roofs out of the building material, which he believes is largely underutilized.
Menges said, “We’re not just looking at a gradual evolution of how things are made. It’s a pretty dramatic shift, a kind of fourth industrial revolution.”
Together with engineers Thomas Auer and Jan Knippers, as well as architect Moritz Dörstelmann, Menges designed the Elytra Filament Pavilion for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. They’re utilizing robotic construction to fashion a delicate pavilion that’s meant to mimic beetle wings in flight.
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To create the pavilion, robots move carbon fibers through a resin bath, and then spiral the material about metal scaffolding. All that is heated in a huge oven, and then the fibers are removed to create structures and potentially stadium roofs. That’s one application where Menges sees particularly intriguing potential.
Often carbon fibers are embedded in materials, but the team has explored robotic weaving that “leaves fibers exposed,” according to Dezeen. Using carbon fiber in this way could allow architects to design strong stadium roofs.
Combining technology with this unique building material could revolutionize construction of the future, according to Menges. He believes we have not yet explored all that carbon fiber could accomplish in architecture, but that using robotics to explore the material could take us one step further. “It’s a very new technology so nobody has picked it up and commercialized it,” he said.
His team is working on better robots as well. As opposed to car industry robots, created to perform one function, Menges’ team is working on robots that are more intuitive.
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