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.
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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.
Conflicts of Interest
Authors M. Kayser, L. Cai, S. Falcone, and N. Oxman are inventors on U.S. provisional patent application US62/623,002.
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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41693-018-0013-y
- Swarm robotics
- Autonomous construction
- Site-specific construction
- Composite fabrication
- Fabrication-aware design
- Multi-robot systems