FIBERBOTS: an autonomous swarm-based robotic system for digital fabrication of fiber-based composites


Construction is a labor-intensive industry that relies on dependent processes being completed in series. Redesigning fabrication processes to allow for parallelization and replacing workers with mobile multi-robot construction systems are strategies to expedite construction, but they typically require extensive supporting infrastructure and strictly constrain fabricable designs. Here we present Fiberbots, a platform that represents a step toward autonomous, collaborative robotic fabrication. This system comprises a team of identical robots that work in parallel to build different parts of the same structure up to tens of times larger than themselves from raw, homogeneous materials. By winding fiber and resin around themselves, each robot creates an independent composite tube that it can climb and extend. The robots’ trajectories are controlled to construct intertwining tubes that result in a computationally derived woven architecture. This end-to-end system is scalable, allowing additional robots to join the system without substantially increasing design complexity or fabrication time. As an initial demonstration of system viability, a structural case study was performed. The robots constructed a 4.5 m-tall tubular composite structure in an outdoor environment in under 12 h. While further improvements must be made before this can be used in industry or in truly cooperative settings, this is the largest known demonstration of on-site construction with multiple, homogeneous mobile robots. This work offers a scalable step forward in autonomous, site-specific fabrication systems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

adapted from (Kayser et al. 2018). Each is a single segment fabricated independently by a robotic system, not appended onto a tube

Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9


  1. Allwright M (2017) An autonomous multi-robot system for stigmergy-based construction. PhD Thesis

  2. Anderson JV (2006) Automated manipulation for the lotus filament winding process. Brigham Young University

  3. Augugliaro F, Lupashin S, Hamer M, Male C, Hehn M, Mueller MW, D’Andrea R (2014) The flight assembled architecture installation: cooperative construction with flying machines. IEEE Control Syst 34(4):46–64.

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Doerstelmann M, Knippers J, Koslowski V, Menges A, Prado M, Schieber G, Vasey L (2015) ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014–15: fibre placement on a pneumatic body based on a water spider web. Archit Des 85(5):60–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Dogar M, Knepper RA, Spielberg A, Choi C, Christensen HI, Rus D (2015) Multi-scale assembly with robot teams. Int J Robot Res 34(13):1645–1659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Felbrich B, Fruh N, Prado M, Saffarian S, Solly J, Vasey L, Menges A (2017) Multi-machine fabrication: an integrative design process utilising an autonomous UAV and industrial robots for the fabrication of long-span composite structures. ACADIA

  7. Fratzl P, Weinkamer R (2007) Nature’s hierarchical materials. Prog Mater Sci 52(8):1263–1334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Galloway KC, Jois R, Yim M (2010) Factory floor: a robotically reconfigurable construction platform. In: 2010 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp 2467–2472.

  9. Gardiner G (2015) SFMOMA façade: Advancing the art of high-rise FRP. Retrieved May 13, 2018.

  10. Giftthaler M, Sandy T, Dörfler K, Brooks I, Buckingham M, Rey G, Buchli J (2017) Mobile robotic fabrication at 1:1 scale: the In situ Fabricator. Constr Robot 1(1–4):3–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. International Building Code 2018 (2018) Retrieved May 13, 2018.

  12. Kayser M, Cai L, Falcone S, Bader C, Inglessis N, Darweesh B, Oxman N (2018) Design of a multi-agent, fiber composite digital fabrication system. Sci Robot 3(22):eaau5630

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Keating SJ, Leland JC, Cai L, Oxman N (2017) Toward site-specific and self-sufficient robotic fabrication on architectural scales. Sci Robot 2(5):eaam8986.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. LeGault M (2015) SkyPath: scenic bikeway/walkway a winner with composites. Retrieved May 5, 2018.

  15. Lindsey Q, Mellinger D, Kumar V (2011) Construction of cubic structures with quadrotor teams. in robotics: science and systems. robotics: science and systems foundation.

  16. Lorek H, White M (1993) Parallel bird flocking simulation

  17. Ma H, Herbert E, Ohno M, Li VC (2018) Scale-linking model of self-healing and stiffness recovery in engineered cementitious composites (ECC). Cement Concr Compos 95:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Melenbrink N, Werfel J (2018) Local force cues for strength and stability in a distributed robotic construction system. Swarm Intell 12(2):129–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Menges, A. (2012). ICD/ITKE research pavilion 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2018.

  20. Minibuilders (2014) Retrieved May 5, 2018.

  21. Munro M (1988) Review of manufacturing of fiber composite components by filament winding. Polym Compos 9(5):352–359.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Petersen K, Nagpal R, Werfel J (2011) TERMES: an autonomous robotic system for three-dimensional collective construction. In: Robotics: science and systems (RSS). Robotics: science and systems foundation.

  23. Quinones JI (2012) Applying acceleration and deceleration profiles to bipolar stepper motors, 7

  24. Rackham JW, Couchman GH, Hicks SJ (2009) Composite slabs and beams using steel decking: best practice for design and construction. MCRMA

  25. Raval PN, Patel PA (2014) Expandable and collapsible winding mandrel: a literature review. International Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Technology (IJMET)

  26. Reynolds CW (1987) Flocks, herds, and schools: a distributed behavioral model. SIGGRAPH 21:25–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. RFL (2016) Retrieved April 18, 2018.

  28. Snooks R (2015) Studio roland snooks-brass swarm. Retrieved May 3, 2018.

  29. Yablonina M, Menges A (2018) Towards the development of fabrication machine species for filament materials. RobArch

  30. Zhou B, Zhou S (2004) Parallel simulation of group behaviors. In: Proceedings of the 2004 Winter Simulation Conference, 2004. (Vol. 1, p. 370).

Download references


This work was supported by GETTYLAB and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The authors would like to thank Robert R. Garriga, Melinda Szabo, and Jami Rose for their contributions towards the development of the hardware and software. Thanks to Silas Hughes and James Weaver for their help with the analysis of the resulting structures. And finally thanks to João Costa, Mark Feldmeier, William Langford, Andrew Spielberg, Julian L. Bell, Stephanie Ku, and Lisa Freed for their advice.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Neri Oxman.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of Interest

Authors M. Kayser, L. Cai, S. Falcone, and N. Oxman are inventors on U.S. provisional patent application US62/623,002.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kayser, M., Cai, L., Falcone, S. et al. FIBERBOTS: an autonomous swarm-based robotic system for digital fabrication of fiber-based composites. Constr Robot 2, 67–79 (2018).

Download citation


  • Swarm robotics
  • Autonomous construction
  • Site-specific construction
  • Composite fabrication
  • Fabrication-aware design
  • Multi-robot systems