Robotic Timber Construction


The Neuron project built a novel thin-shell structure with advanced methods of computational design & robotic fabrication. The wood pavilion, located in the campus at Nanjing University, spans about seven meters. The entire installation is made of 61 pieces of irregular plywood panels connected by their own “fingers”, without any nails or glue.

The team developed an iterative algorithm in Java programming language to generate a compression-only shell structure. The shell’s openings are associated with the settings of the courtyard. The geometries of the plywood panels are concerned with structural stability, tectonic feasibility, manufacture constraints, and visual effects. Each neuron-shaped panel has several “synapses” which bear the pressure between the panels. The boundaries of synapses from adjacent panels make a continuous outline of a hole. These holes endow the entire surface with a unique pattern.

The panels are manufactured by Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machines. First, a milling machine cuts the panels out of the rectangular plywood sheets (25mm). Second, a Kuka 6-axis robot creates the “fingers” on the synapses of each panel, so that the adjacent panels can be firmly connect with their fingers. The design of fingers are tailored for robotic milling and pavilion’s in situ assembly. Both the G-code for driving the milling machine and the KRL sources files for driving the Kuka robot are created by the same Java program that generates the shell’s geometry. An open-source library is also published for programming Kuka robot in Java.

The Neuron pavilion shows the advantages of integrating computational design and digital fabrication. It features a continuous digital chain from early-stage design, form finding, structural optimization, to manufacture.

Neuron木构结合了运算化设计(Computational Design)和机器人制造(Robotic Fabrication)技术,在南京大学校园内建成了约7米跨度的新型木质构筑物。构件之间的连接完全由榫卯实现,无需钉子、胶水或螺栓固定。


所有木构件的制造都由数控加工完成:先由CNC(Computer Numeric Control)木工机从25mm桦木胶合板上切割出构件的轮廓,再由Kuka六轴机器人完成每个构件“触角”处的榫卯加工。全新的榫卯构造设计,一方面确保了连接的有效性和便捷性,另一方面充分结合了机器人铣削加工的特性。设计团队用Java程序输出木工机的G-code代码和Kuka机器人的KRL代码,并发布了http://javakuka.org开源代码库,完全实现了机器人运动编程的自主化。



助教:梅琳丽,王嘉城, 刘宁琳,郭翰宸,李鸿渐