A robot in the form of a metal box is attached to various red cables and suspended a few feet in the air, unveiled for the Bauhaus centennary
The Robotic Printed Morphologies project used a 3D printer that floated along cables to deposit a cement-like material. (Courtesy Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, University of Applied Sciences Dortmund, and the University of Duisburg-Essen)

To celebrate the Bauhaus centennial, German researchers show off new robot printer

This summer, to celebrate the centenary of the Bauhaus, the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Weimar, Germany, hosted an exhibition called sumaery2019. At the exhibition, the university showcased some of the latest innovations in robotics, displaying a cable-driven robot that 3D printed cementitious material, designed by a team led by professor Jan Willmann, in cooperation with the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and the University of Duisburg-Essen.

The robot extruded and deposited layers of the “concrete” onto a platform to create a shell around a large steel structure. The robot moved over long distances across four cables, similar to how cameras work for sports broadcasts. (the Weimar robot also featured a high-resolution camera to capture what it was doing). The benefits of the robotic cable system, according to Willmann, is its ability to “to perform a variety of non-standard building processes, beyond the workspace restrictions imposed by conventional CNC-machinery.” He goes onto explain that “this means that the required components can be produced at full-scale, on-demand, on-site, and in practically unlimited forms and sizes, eliminating the need for additional formwork, transportation over long distances, and standardized parts.”

Photo of a steel scaffolding and wall
The multi-dimensional printer deposits a cement-based material to cover the university’s steel testbed structure in a shell. (Courtesy Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, University of Applied Sciences Dortmund, and the University of Duisburg-Essen)

The researchers hope that the robot showcased new possibilities in computational design and formwork-less additive manufacturing. “The results not only demonstrate the innovative aesthetic and functional potential of the robotic process,” said Willmann, “they also provide a fascinating insight into the future of digital design and the manufacturing process in a real-world scenario.”