Testing Eggshell fabrication process with ABB’s GoFa

Students of the Master of Advanced Studies ETH Zurich in Architecture and Digital Fabrication (MAS DFAB) are now using ABB's new collaborative robot GoFa cobot to explore the Eggshell fabrication process, an ultrathin formwork system for the casting of complex architectural components.

It is early in the morning when a white box with red ABB lettering arrives at ETH Hönggerberg campus. The package is medium-sized and can be easily moved by two people. Together with the technicians of the Robotic Fabrication Lab (RFL), students of the MAS open the package containing a GoFa CRP 15000. The GoFa robot is different than most other industrial robot arms, in that it allows the students to work “hands on” directly and collaboratively with the robotic arm. Such cobots are easy to install and operate, they are designed to work safely and continuously alongside humans, and so do not require a safety separation or fence.

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The MAS participants have been given the task of designing and fabricating a full scale pavilion consisting of multiple concrete elements using Eggshell fabrication process. Eggshell, developed at Gramazio Kohler Research, combines robotically 3D printed ultra-thin formworks with a set-on-demand concrete, and allows for the fabrication of optimized elements with high geometric freedom that use less material than conventionally built elements. Through this project work the MAS participants are testing, validating, and further developing Eggshell. To do this systematically requires a convenient and fast prototypic process, this is where the GoFa cobot provides great benefits.

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Both the GoFa and the larger ABB industrial robots within the RFL are controlled using COMPAS RCC, an in-house developed framework for the online robot control. This Python framework provides a simple-to-use interface allowing users to transition easily between working at scale in the classroom to full-scale in the lab and back again. Through the use of the intuitive physical interface available with the GoFa cobots, the users “teach-in” robotic procedures in the classroom, and then scale them up for execution in the lab. This continuous exchange between scales and machines facilitates iterative prototyping, and the common code-base simplifies learning and helps users to anticipate challenges in large scale manufacturing.

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The Master of Advanced Studies ETH in Architecture and Digital Fabrication
is the educational program of the National Centre for Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, one of the biggest and world leading interdisciplinary research clusters on digital fabrication and robotics in architecture. The MAS is a one-year full time educational program positioned within a vibrant multidisciplinary research environment. Jointly organised by the Chair for Digital Building Technologies and Gramazio Kohler Research it enjoys strong links with the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) and the Architecture Department (D-ARCH) of ETH Zurich.