Cutting Edge Fabrication: Investigating Timber Sheet Materials with Robotic Fabrication
Timber sheet materials have been used in the same manner for decades despite having a vital role in the construction industry. This often results in indistinguishable surfaces with no identity. The research developed in this thesis is the creation of a workflow to create a self-supporting structure from sheet materials using robotic fabrication and computational tools. Timber sheet materials is the key focus for this research, as timber is a material that can be altered in a variety of ways. Japanese timber connections were a strong influence for this research, due to its prolonged life span and sustainable advantages. In the past, timber fabrication techniques have been limited due to design limitations. Current technology, specifically parametric software combined with the robotic arm was explored to find how it can create timber connections to connect sheet materials at different angles. This method was utilised to repurpose the concept of sheet materials towards a complex structure, which adopted the idea of mass customisation over mass production. Prototypes of timber connections were created to develop an outcome that will structurally support itself. The outcome of each prototype was evaluated and compared with one another to establish which connection would be most suited to bring forward to the self-supporting structure. Computational simulations were used to explore individual structures which created panels that were automatically flattened in the software. This allowed the digital file to be transferred to the robotic arm to be milled. Using the robotic arm was an advantage, as it can rotate around six-axis giving multiple degrees of design freedom which broadened the range of construction techniques that can be used with sheet materials. There is a high chance of human error with manual labour, therefore precision is a positive attribute of the robotic arm. The precision helped minimise waste compared to manual labour. This thesis presented an opportunity for the design/construction industry to adopt a new workflow to bring leading-edge technology to focus on sustainable materials and to steer away from the repetitions evident in buildings today.