Topology Optimization and Robotic Fabrication of Advanced Timber Space-Frame Structures

  • Asbjørn SøndergaardEmail author
  • Oded Amir
  • Phillip Eversmann
  • Luka Piskorec
  • Florin Stan
  • Fabio Gramazio
  • Matthias Kohler


This paper presents a novel method for integrated topology optimization and fabrication of advanced timber space-frame structures. The method, developed in research collaboration between ETH Zürich, Aarhus School of Architecture and Israel Institute of Technology, entails the coupling of truss-based topology optimization with digital procedures for rationalization and robotic assembly of bespoke timber members, through a procedural, cross-application workflow. Through this, a direct chaining of optimization and robotic fabrication is established, in which optimization data is driving subsequent processes solving timber joint intersections, robotically controlling member prefabrication, and spatial robotic assembly of the optimized timber structures. The implication of this concept is studied through pilot fabrication and load-testing of a full scale prototype structure.


Topology optimization Digital fabrication Architectural robotics Advanced timber structures 



The research presented in this paper was performed within a research exchange between ETH Zürich and Aarhus School of Architecture in collaboration with the NCCR Digital Fabrication MAS Programme and Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa. This research was supported by the NCCR Digital Fabrication, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NCCR Digital Fabrication Agreement # 51NF40-141853). The contribution of Aarhus School of Architecture was enabled through the generous financial support of the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science under the Elite Research Travel Grant program.

The presented research builds directly on the research findings and developments from the ongoing SNSF research project NRP-66, established in collaboration between ETH Zürich, Bern University of Applied Science and Nolax AG. The primary constituent findings for the presented work are (a) ongoing joining experiments involving two-component, super-curing adhesives and (b) the principal process of robotic pre-sawing and spatial assembly of timber members.

In particular, the authors would warmly like to thank: Dr. Volker Helm and Dr. Jan Willmann for their helpful organizational support and discussion of research and paper content; NRP-66 collaborators Dr. Thomas Kohlhammer, Aleksandra Apolinarska and Peter Zock for fruitful discussions of analytical and structural approaches, knowledge transfer and help regarding the adhesive process; Student assistants Micha Ringer and Lazlo Blaser for their involvement in the fabrication of the prototype structure; Michael Lyrenmann for excellent photographic documentation; and Dominik Werne and the ETH HIF-Halle staff for their tireless involvement and support in the load-testing of the structure.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asbjørn Søndergaard
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oded Amir
    • 2
  • Phillip Eversmann
    • 3
  • Luka Piskorec
    • 3
  • Florin Stan
    • 4
  • Fabio Gramazio
    • 3
  • Matthias Kohler
    • 3
  1. 1.Aarhus School of ArchitectureAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  3. 3.ETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Odico Formwork Robotics ApsOdenseDenmark

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