dfab house – Digital Fabrication and Living

Digital Fabrication promises to revolutionize architecture. The seamless combination of digital technologies with the physical construction process enables previously unimaginable architecture to be realized and can significantly increase efficiency in the production and sustainability of buildings.

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The dfab house not only allows the realization of completely new design, material and production technologies, but also comprehensive analyses under realistic conditions. Specifically, the unit pursues the following objectives:

  • The first research phase of the NCCR Digital Fabrication is transformed into a real, coherent application. 
  • The underlying constructional innovations and technology are rendered directly accessible to the public and private sector and mediated in a way that makes sense.
  • The unit can be analyzed and evaluated for a longer period so that digital fabrication techniques can be tested and developed for the first time under long-term conditions.

The dfab house is due to open its doors in 2018.

The Innovative Objects in the Unit dfab house
Mesh Mould: Formwork-free On Site Fabrication of a Structurally Optimised Concrete Wall
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The new building technology Mesh Mould combines the two conventionally separated functions of formwork and reinforcement: Using a robot, a digitally generated model of a steel mesh is fabricated in high precision and then filled with concrete. Thanks to the close mesh design and the specific concrete mixture, the liquid concrete does not pour out. The steel mesh thus assumes and combines the two functions of formwork and reinforcement. Mesh Mould thereby allows to build standard building elements as well as structurally optimized, curved and non-standardised geometries with minimum waste, less material and energy, and considerably lower production costs.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, NOE-Schaltechnik, Schlatter, Sika, Stahl Gerlafingen, Zühlke

The In situ Fabricator: Robotic On Site Fabrication
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The In situ Fabricator is a mobile robot designed for the on site fabrication of building elements. Thanks to its integrated navigation and sensor system, the mobile robot is able to orient itself on constantly changing construction sites and can position itself and move autonomously. Since the industrial robotic arm can be equipped with different tools, the robot is able to perform different tasks on construction sites that are dangerous, unhealthy or too complicated for humans. On NEST, the robot will manufacture the finely woven steel mesh for a load-bearing wall which will be constructed using the novel building technology Mesh Mould.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich

Smart Slab: Additive Prefabrication of Functionally Integrated Ceiling Slabs
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Using a 3D-sandprinter, high-resolution, form-giving ceiling slabs are prefabricated. The individual elements are then being filled with ultra-high performance, fiber-reinforced concrete, and fitted with anchors for subsequent pre-stressing on the consruction site. Thanks to the printer’s high resolution, different functions such as building technology, lighting and acoustics can be already integrated in the building elements. In addition, the technology’s freedom of form allows to structurally optimise the multifunctional ceiling slabs. This way, considerable quantities of material can be saved in comparison to standard ceiling elements.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, Bürgin Creations, Frutiger, voxeljet

Smart Dynamic Casting: Prefabrication of Non-Standardised Concrete Elements Using a Robotic Slip Forming Process
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Smart Dynamic Casting is a continuous robotic slip forming technique which enables to prefabricate load-bearing concrete structures with variable cross-sections without any formwork. The automated process consists in the fact that a 40 centimetres long formwork segment is continuously filled with concrete and constantly pulled upwards. Specific additives ensure that once having left the formwork segment, the concrete is only hydrated to the extent that it carries itself and the weight of the overlying concrete, whilst simultaneously still allowing for the concrete to be reshaped. Within the scope of the NEST Unit, the technique will be used to prefabricate the façade elements of the basement.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, Pemat, Zühlke

Spatial Timber Assemblies: Bespoke Robotic Prefabrication of Timber Construction Elements
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The three-dimensional robotic prefabrication of highly integrated timber construction elements expands the geometric design possibilities of prefabrication and minimises the effort involved in installing individual elements whilst addi-tionally facilitating the integration of technology. Within the scope of the NEST unit, a panelled timber frame structure will be constructed in which technical installations such as photovoltaic panels, thermal collectors or shading systems will already be integrated during the robotic prefabrication process.

Partners: NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich, ERNE Holzbau