The geometry of air: large-scale multi-colour robotic additive fabrication for air-diffusion systems


This research investigates the integrated design, robotic fabrication and materialisation of novel air-diffusion systems for contemporary office environments. Specifically, the research focuses on the integration of computational design, multi-objective optimisation and the development of novel approaches and techniques for large-scale 3D-printed module systems for low-embodied energy air ducts in the context of a pilot study for an open office environment. By investigating the interrelationship of polymer extrusion, material behaviour, computational design, computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulation and multi-objective optimisation, the research leverages the capacities of each of these methods to create highly detailed geometries that are optimised for air diffusion to create locally differentiated thermal comfort. The paper contributes to and further extends existing research in the domain of large-scale 3D printing by presenting a series of developed novel approaches and techniques combining the diverse methods above to address the plural performance demands of low-embodied energy air-diffusion systems. It presents empirical research towards air simulation, geometry optimisation and bespoke fabrication for a high-quality, customised and resilient air-diffusion system to support the flexibility of contemporary office environments and reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities through increased resource-use efficiency and substantial waste and embodied energy reduction.

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The authors thank Tran Dang, Gwyn Jones and Lucy Wang from UTS as well as Mitch Page and Phil Spedding from BVN for their valuable contributions and technical support. Our industry contributors Enrico Zara, Mairead Hogan, Steve Drane, Camilo Chalela, Chris Macdonald and Nawreen Sultana from Arup, Dr. Caroline Noller from The Footprint Company, Barry Dineen and Dominic Hawton from BVN Real. We would further like to acknowledge Kavanagh Industries, Patrick Ibrahim (Equilibrium Air Conditioning), Michael Morley (CBRE), Ben Doherty, Aidan Ray, Ishaan Varshney and Urban Art Projects for their valuable insights.

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Correspondence to Tim Schork.

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Schork, T., Titchkosky, N., Bickerton, C. et al. The geometry of air: large-scale multi-colour robotic additive fabrication for air-diffusion systems. Constr Robot 5, 49–61 (2021).

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  • Architecture
  • Robotic fabrication
  • Multi-colour
  • Computational design
  • 3D-printing
  • Air-diffusion
  • Embedded carbon