2016 - Current | Research Projects
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

Designing for Collective Construction: On-Site Multi-Agent Fabrication

Nathan Melenbrink

Designing for Collective Construction: On-Site Multi-Agent Fabrication

Collective building facilitates the construction of large and resilient structures through parallel execution of simple tasks and exists at many scales of nature, from social weaver birds and termites to the assembly of cytoskeletal proteins into regular grid-like structures. Advances in the fields of electronics, sensing technologies and agent-based computation have only recently validated the feasibility of looking to such emergent building techniques as a new process model for robotic fabrication.

The potential of these systems lies in their adaptability, making them suitable for hostile or unpredictable environments. However, the role of human design agency when working with these systems must be redefined. The ability to specify formal outcomes in detail is compromised, as agents will make their own decisions based on potentially volatile local conditions. However, designing structures that change morphologies over time becomes a novel affordance of such a system.

The scope of this project consists of a theoretical formulation of an architecture yielded by multi-robot construction, an exploration of this new design space through simulation with custom design tools, and finally physical demonstrators with prototype construction robots engaged in the plan-free assembly of structures at the building scale.

ICD Institute for Computational Design - Prof. Achim Menges

Scientific Development

Nathan Melenbrink

Cooperation Partners

Designing Emergence Laboratory, Harvard University -- Dr. Justin Werfel

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger -- Paul Kassabian

Contact Information

This image shows Nathan Melenbrink
B.Arch., M.DesS

Nathan Melenbrink

Doctoral Candidate

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