New construction and building materials alert: carbon fiber could be the future of swarm construction. See how these new spiderbots utilize the material.
The idea of spiderbots working as a swarm and able to climb walls is, at first, a terrifying concept. But these spiderbots—known scientifically as Mobile Robotic Fabrication System for Filament Structures—are meant to make the construction of the future simpler, not haunt our nightmares.
In fact, the spiderbots are more Roomba than spider, but their ability to scale walls has earned them this moniker. Graduate student Maria Yablonina of the Institute for Computational Design (ICD) at the University of Stuttgart is the head of the project, which also partners with the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE).
The project’s goal is to develop faster and less expensive means to create structures that would otherwise be impossible to build. It also introduces the idea of swarm construction—a fabrication method predicted to be common in the future that utilizes a swarm of small robots working together.
“Pragmatically, smaller robots will be cheaper and, in working collaboratively in larger numbers, faster than the established systems,” ICD Director Achim Menges shared in an interview with Dezeen.
Yablonina’s robots climb walls and pass a spool of carbon fiber—an underutilized construction material—to weave an intricate structure. Pre-made anchor points on the wall give the robots points in which to create the structure around.
The robots use sensors and suction to travel across any horizontal or vertical surface, including existing architecture. Internal fans create the powerful suction needed for these spiderbots to traverse walls.
The size of these robots and their ability to go places humans and industrial machinery can’t set them apart from the current technology available to the construction industry.
“Working with many small robots rather than one or two big ones extends the design space significantly and allows us to tap into the unique possibilities of filament structures,” said Menges. “One can conceive more intricate, differentiated and larger architectural systems beyond the limits of the workspace and the reach of typical industrial machinery.”
Going forward, Yablonina and her team are looking to upscale the project by increasing the number of robots. Currently, an external power source is connected via a cable, limiting the spiderbots’ application.
Once the team hurdles this roadblock, the goal is then to increase the number of robots and teach them how to climb on other surfaces, including curved walls and even ceilings.