Sustainable Timber Bridge Design with Design-to-Build Workflow Involving Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC)

Architect: Jun Wen Loo
Location: Delft, Netherlands
Year: 2021 – 2022
Concept: Robot Collaboration, Digital Manufacturing, Timber Structures, Bridge Design
Photos by Jun Wen Loo

Buiksloterham, situated on the northern banks of the IJ river, is undergoing massive urban redevelopment as it transits from an industrial town to a mix-use development. However the lack of connectivity within the neighbourhood has become an ever more prominent problem for its growing residents and workers. Gemeente Amsterdam has proposed the construction of 7 new bridges in Buiksloterham to improve the local connectivity while staying rooted in circular and sustainable goals laid down in the green masterplan, Groenevisie 2020-2050. As such, the thesis proposes the construction of a novel timber structure embodying the circular vision of design for disassembly, using renewable and bio-based materials. The bridge will also serve as a landmark for the community, symbolizing the potential of timber architecture in the digital era.

Furthermore, as digital technology ushers in the 4th industrial revolution, the growing complexity and inter-dependencies in computational design of structures and buildings is no longer sufficiently represented in static plans (Helm et al., 2017). Since the inception of digital technology into timber fabrication processes in 1980s, it has transformed hand-tools to multi-axis machines, enabled further by parametric models, to produce highly varied components without lost in efficiency (Buri & Weinand, 2013). Despite the high degree of automation in fabrication, the assembly of these structures are still largely manual (Helm et al., 2017), limited by the scale of the components, machines involved and transportation required.

Should the digital information of fabrication and assembly be directly transmitted to the robots and implemented, this would allow for a seamless workflow (Bachmann, 2009) without the intermediary manual process where digital information and assemblage efficiency could be lost. Tapping on the strengths of robotic systems in processing large amount of data, having high level of precision as well as being capable of taking over dirty, dangerous and mundane tasks, this presented the opportunity for integration of Human-Robot Collaboration into the construction system (Reinhardt et al., 2020).

Therefore the focus of this thesis aims to develop meaningful and productive Design-to-Build workflow involving HRC in the construction process of a timber bridge structure in Buiksloterham, Amsterdam.

Phase 3 RF Shell assembly setup with robotic arm in Home Position where pins are loaded.