MAS 2019/20 Thesis Projects

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Filigree Concrete: The Architecture of Fibres

Ultra-High performance fibre reinforced concrete is concrete containing fibrous material that increases its structural performance. The optimal contribution of the fibres, in terms of structural strength, is when they are oriented along the direction of tensile stresses and can bridge cracks in the overall structure. This research focuses on the influence of complex formwork geometry on fibre orientation and distribution during the casting process. With further understanding of the behavior of fibres in these forms, and a more informed approach in their implementation, the limits of filigree concrete architectural components were explored and pushed further. The thesis investigates the design possibilities of this technology through experiments focusing on tubular branching geometries as 3D-printed formworks and in combination with different casting strategies and their effect on fibre alignment. The results were observed and analysed using physical sections. The design and fabrication of slender concrete architectural components became more informed, leading to the exploration of a new design language and reaching concrete forms of 11 mm diameter. 

Tutor: Andrei Jipa, Angela Yoo, Georgia Chousou
Industry Partner : Bekaert AG

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Exploring Material Self-Formation: Crafting Surfaces through Feedback-based Robotic Plaster Spraying

This research presents a novel method for feedback-based plaster spraying by the use of a spray gun controlled by a 6DoF robotic arm. Through this process proposed, multiple layers of a cementitious material are sprayed at different velocities onto a surface creating volumetric formations without the use of any formwork or support. In order to control the build-up of a such malleable material, a depth camera is integrated into the fabrication process, feeding a control system updating the end-effector distance to the target surface after each spraying iteration. The goal of this research is to explore a design space in which this technique can be used to understand the design potentials of this fabrication method, aiming at bespoke surface finishes.

Student: Tsai Ping-Hsun, Eliott Sounigo.

Tutors: Selen Ercan, Dr. Ena Lloret-Fritschi

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Porous Assemblies - Robotic 3D printing of mineral foam for novel lightweight architectures

Nowadays, the construction sector is living through two crises: the global warming crisis, moreover; the population is increasing and as a result, also there is a housing crisis. There are some approaches to tackle those major challenges through high-tech digital fabrication / material research and lived practice of autoconstruction / improvisation. This paper presents a possible answer for both problems though the design explorations of 3D Printing  bricks for lightweight architectural assemblies, which could be produced in mass, customized and optimized for material-reduction in the building environment. The fabrication method is robotic 3D extrusion-printing and sintering of the materials using an oven. Design systems contribute to the development of an integrated generative system which includes spatial design, brick design, assembly design and printing tool-path. The research plan explores design challenges for 3D printing with mineral foams, generating bespoke tool-paths , and detailing opportunities for discrete assemblies with and identifies future directions of research in extrusion-based printing with a lightweight/sustainable material.

Student: Dinorah Martinez Schulte

Thesis Supervisors: Patrick Bedarf

Collaboration: Fen X AG

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Adaptive Clay Formations - Robotic In-Situ Clay Construction


Rapid Clay Formations (RCF) is an ongoing research into robotic aggregation of soft clay elements conducted at the MAS ETH DFAB programme at ETH, Zürich. In our thesis, we present our research into RCF construction on an architectural scale. We outline our development of a fabrication process suitable to build tall and slender structures from clay. This fabrication process is evaluated through a series of prototypes and preparations for a three-week building workshop.
In this project, we have evaluated and tested material behaviour and optimisation, geometric sensing, robot trajectory planning and mobile robotic localization. These explorations are combined with design studies for large monolithic clay structures aiming at a rapid deployment on site. We call this stream of the RCF research Adaptive Clay Formations

Thesis students: Anton Tetov Johansson & Edurne Morales Zúñiga

Thesis tutors: David Jenny, Coralie Ming, Nicolas Feihl & Gonzalo Casas

Industry Partner : Lehmag AG and Brauchli Ziegelei AG

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Carbon Fiber Exoskeleton - 3D printing of carbon fiber-reinforcement

This thesis explores carbon fiber-reinforcement onto 3D-printed freeform formworks for the materialization of thin concrete components.

Freeform components play an important role in contemporary architecture. Recent 3D printing innovation enables the efficient materialization of those allowing to create geometrically-complex concrete formwork. However, the freeform tensional-reinforcement strategy remains unexplored, particularly for the thin structure.On the one hand, despite the reinforcement application onto the concrete surface, where most of the tensile stresses occur, increases the structural-performance, the corrosion from the traditional steel-reinforcement limits the potential of the exoskeletal reinforcement. On the other hand, carbon fiber has non-corrosive properties, as well as a high weight-to-strength ratio and formability. In this context, this research proposes a novel method of an add-on carbon fiber process with 3D-printed formwork that allows achieving unprecedented exoskeletal reinforcement. Moreover, the thesis develops a computational method based on structural-optimization strategy enabling the reduction of the materials to be applied only where they are needed.

Student: Fatemeh Salehi Amiri
Tutor: Hyunchul Kwon

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Skin and Bone : Eggshell 3D Printed Formwork with Mesh Mould Reinforcement

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) of formwork for concrete has the potential to realize construction components with structurally optimized geometry, which can reduce the amount of concrete used and improve construction sustainability. Several previous researches show the feasibility of building using this novel technique. However, new challenges (compared to a traditional concrete construction process) have to be addressed: breaks frequently happen to the formworks during the casting because of hydrostatic pressure. Much knowledge exists on the performance of conventional formworks (with steel and wood) for traditional concrete; however, there is a knowledge gap in the understanding of 3D printed formworks that can have non-standard shape. This thesis will investigate different formwork geometries and patterns to expand knowledge on the breakage behavior of formworks when subjected to hydrostatic pressure. Meanwhile, the aim is to improve formwork stability and explore formwork surface aesthetics by applying parametric geometries and patterns. 

Student: Yu-Hung Chiu, Chanon Techathuvanun

Tutor: Joris Burger, Ena Lloret-Fritschi, Tim Wangler (Prof. Flatt)

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Non-Planar Seams for Branching Structures

Non-planar layered printing enables us to control the layer configurations so that we can print shapes that we cannot print with traditional flat-layered printing, such as branching structures, or overhanging shapes without any support structure. A significant obstacle to the use of non-planar print paths is the complexity of their design, which calls for new techniques and methodologies that facilitate this task. In many cases, such as the printing of a large structure, we need to segment the object into smaller pieces to fit them within the printing area. In this research, we propose the segmentation strategy using non-planar boundaries that can create a manifold of layer configurations in one object by distance calculation along the object surface. Through many prototypes using FDM robotic printing, we explored functional and aesthetic aspects of layers, as well as how the orientation of printing paths can be used to an advantage for the task of segmentation.

Student: Mahiro Goto
Tutor : Ioanna Mitropoulo

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Mesh Mould Earth Construction 

Mesh Mould technology is an ongoing digital concrete research of stay in place form-work developed by the chair of architecture and digital fabrication in ETH Zurich. Mesh Mould sets the foundation for this research to fabricate reinforced earthen structures of complex geometries using open lattices to help its curing. The corresponding investigations are a middle ground between traditional applications of natural reinforcement shaping and digital fabrication methods. The digital output of a complex geometric model is translated into a low-tech fabrication workflow in order to adapt to the socio-economic reality of the used natural materials. The human-machine fabrication apparatus offers versatile scenarios of automation and labour engagement. The developed apparatus focuses on giving access to doubly curved complex reinforcement geometries through an affordable, easy to use fabrication interface. The research focuses on natural reinforcement material and investigates suitable bending and assembly methods. Conjointly, a computational model is developed, which integrates material characteristics and shaping methods. Eventually, the computional set-up will provide a straightforward interface for the human to fabricate reinforcement cages for earthen materials. The earthen material mix and filling process is conducted by our research collaborators Oxara.

Liya Sunny Anthraper & Wei-Ting Chen

Thesis Supervisors : Ana Anton, Eleni Skevaki, Lex Reiter

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Adaptive Resolution for Volumetric Modelling

This research investigates ways of mastering multiple levels of resolution. Since architecture combines various scales and construction methods, is an adaptive resolution a way to address the complex nature of such formations? Using volumetric modeling (VM), a computational workflow (using Python on Rhino/Grasshopper) is proposed to master and control the resolution of a 3D model. Whether this happens in the constructive solid geometry tree (CSG) or during the discretization of the signed distance function (SDF) object, the goal is to define local levels of detail while using dynamic instruments. Two case-studies will present applications within the digital fabrication domain. A fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer combining different filament thicknesses will give an insight into how an adaptive resolution could solve the matching challenges.

Student: Rémy Clémente
Tutor: Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger, Mathias Bernhard

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Illuminating Links: A design research for steel-gel casting

Computation offers new possibilities of design for building components, however existing methods of steel additive manufacturing have major limitations. The motivation is to overcome those by examining a new fabrication method of steel-gel casting in FDM formwork. The thesis develops a design language for the investigated process and demonstrates its potential in a design study of a prototypical steel component, embedding the functions of structural connection, integrated lightning and ornament. The entire manufacturing chain was set up and discovered, the shape definition followed by the digital mold making; the formwork 3d printing and steel gel-casting. The result of the thesis is a prototypical steel component, which is a combination of a functional element and a sculptural object, inspired and informed by the manufacturing method.

Student: László Mangliár
Tutor : Marirena Kladeftira

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Pushing the boundaries of integral joints in robotically assembled timber structures


Timber has a rich history in building construction. For centuries, carpenters have assembled timber structures by hand and while technology has improved production efficiency, the timber construction industry has been slow to embrace the potential of a fully automated robotic assembly process for factory-built structures.Gramazio Kohler Research at ETH Zurich has been developing a robotic process with a clamping tool to place linear timber into an integral lap joint configuration on a vertically positioned post. While researchers have been capable to do so in a 90-degree configuration, this thesis seeks to demonstrate the potential for an angular clamping system that could joint linear timber within a range of angles on the same plane, opening up opportunities for more complex geometries in robotic assembly. Developed in collaboration with Victor Leung from Gramazio Kohler Research and Davide Tanadini from the Chair of Structural Design, this thesis presents parametric rules guiding the assembly, design and structural stability of a timber structure. It proposes a set of iterative design opportunities and has tested those opportunities through a 1-to-1 scale timber structure to confirm assumptions and discover elements to be further investigated.

Student: Frédéric Brisson
Tutor: Victor Leung, Davide Tanadini (Prof. Schwartz)

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PerSkin Add-On 3D-Printing on Fabric

Fabric is a soft material commonly used in construction for its ability to be tensiled.  From the 18th century to the present day it has been used in the field of industrialised construction in combination with steel cables or other rigid materials. Textile is often used to form tents, stadiums, or pavilions. Additive Manufacturing (AM) has already demonstrated its potential in architecture. Especially polymer extrusion has been used, not only for creating formwork for concrete, but also facades components. However, in architecture, this AM process is struggling with long built-up rates. There are first attempts to combine polymer extrusion with a substrate material (Add-on 3DP) for faster build-up rates, especially necessary for the architecture scale. Nevertheless, the use of substrate material like fabric has not been fully explored yet. This research aims to combine a rigid material - the 3D-printing material - with a soft material - the fabric - to create spatial elements of architectural size. It provides experimental data on the behaviour of the new composite material, as well as a different design approach to create spatial architectural elements.

Student: Emmanuelle Sallin
Tutor: Matthias Leschok