Construction Materials

Building with robots and 3D printers: Construction of the DFAB HOUSE up and running


At the Empa and Eawag NEST building in Dübendorf, eight ETH Zurich professors as part of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication are collaborating with business partners to build the three-storey DFAB HOUSE. As part of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication, architects, robotics specialists, material scientists, structural engineers and sustainability experts from ETH Zurich have teamed up with business partners to put several new digital building technologies from the laboratory into practice. The two upper floors, with individual rooms, are being prefabricated at ETH Zurich's Robotic Fabrication Laboratory using spatial timber assemblies; cooperating robots will assemble the timber construction elements. NCCR Investigators Involved with the DFAB HOUSE: Prof. Matthias Kohler, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication Prof. Fabio Gramazio, Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger, Chair for Digital Building Technologies Prof. Joseph Schwartz, Chair of Structural Design Prof. Robert Flatt, Institute for Building Materials Prof. Walter Kaufmann, Institute of Structural Engineering Prof. Guillaume Habert, Institute of Construction & Infrastructure Management Prof. Jonas Buchli, Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Sys

This girls robotics team from Afghanistan was denied visas for a U.S. competition


A robotics competition team of Afghan girls won't be able to watch their creation compete in person. SEE ALSO: U.S. visa applicants may have to hand over their social media handles The team twice traveled the roughly 500-mile distance to the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, for visa interviews, but officials denied them. The six Afghan girls already had trouble participating in the competition because the materials they needed to build their robot were held up at the airport. First Global sent kits full of building materials to each participating team, but Team Afghanistan only got their stuff three weeks ago because officials feared it might wind up in the hands of extremists.

Carnegie Mellon's AI Program Aims to Better Prepare Students for the Changing Workforce


The goal is to train students to build complex software systems or powerful robots that utilize multiple different AI technologies, whether it be machine learning tech to help those systems learn from data or technology that helps robots see and perceive the world similar to humans. However, there hasn't been a standardized way to develop these complex projects that require multiple AI technologies to function together. Similar to how building a skyscraper requires people with expertise in diverse fields like structural engineering and concrete mixing, building powerful software like Siri or robots requires people with expertise in many different areas of AI. "We have done a good job of covering all the component parts," Moore said of teaching different subsets of AI like machine learning and computer vision.

MIT students hack assistive technology solutions for local clients

MIT News

Students have one day to create prototype assistive devices to suit client needs. Students had access to a wide range of resources, including working space, machinery, and building materials, within Beaver Works and technical assistance from several mentors: John Vivilecchia, Kurt Krueger, and Richard Landry of MIT Lincoln Laboratory; Don Fredette of The Boston Home; Michael Buchman of the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Mary Ziegler of the MIT Office of Digital Learning. The team decided to hack a universal remote that communicates via Wi-Fi with a web interface from which Dan could control television power, volume, and channels. Once the build time was over, several judges, including the ATHack organizers, David Crandelle and David Binder of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network; John Vivilecchia; Don Fredette; and Mary Ziegler evaluated each team's device.

Robotics, Smart Materials, and their Future Impact for Humans


The boundaries between smart materials, artificial intelligence, embodiment, biology, and robotics are blurring. Smart materials largely cover the same set of physical properties (stiffness, elasticity, viscosity) as biological tissue and state-of-the-art soft robotic technologies that have the potential to deliver this capability. We can foresee smart skins, assist and medical devices, biodegradable and environmental robots or intelligent soft robots. Ultimately wearable assist devices will make conventional assist devices redundant.

Energy-efficient design

MIT News

Now an MIT team has demonstrated a computer simulation that can help architects optimize their designs for both future operational energy and the initial energy required for making structural materials -- at the same time. To test those trade-offs in practical systems, Mueller and Brown analyzed three types of long-span structures: an enclosed, trussed arch; a "PI" structure (resembling the Greek letter); and an "x-brace." The dark dot at the farthest left in each diagram minimizes structural embodied energy regardless of operational energy, while the dark dot at the farthest right minimizes operational energy regardless of embodied energy. In that case, moving left along the Pareto front will enable the user to significantly reduce embodied energy without much sacrifice in operational energy -- as far as the knee, when operational energy suddenly jumps up.

More companies paying to pinpoint big-data weather forecasts

The Japan Times

"Although we are paying for detailed weather information, the fees are cheaper than the cancellation charges for delivery of construction materials to our work sites," an official at major contractor Kajima Corp. said. "If we know in advance that a work site will not have rain for some hours, we can arrange job plans for the site without canceling work for the entire day," the Kajima official said. "Utilizing big data enables us to avoid various weather-associated risks," the Kajima official said. East Japan Railway Co., which experienced a derailment in the past that was caused by a rain-triggered landslide, hopes to prevent a similar accident by measuring landslide risks based on localized rain forecasts and data on accumulated rainfall.

Tesla plans to unveil solar roof with integrated Powerwall battery on Oct. 28


When Tesla announced its acquisition plans for SolarCity in August, Elon Musk's strategy for the two companies included providing solar roofs to customers that integrate with Tesla's Powerwall home batteries. SEE ALSO: Elon Musk unveils new safety upgrades to Tesla's Autopilot system Aiming for Oct 28 unveil in SF Bay Area of new Tesla/SolarCity solar roof with integrated Powerwall 2.0 battery and Tesla charger. As for Powerwall 2.0 -- the second iteration of Tesla's home battery module -- it was originally announced for this summer, but has yet to be unveiled. Following several accidents -- one resulting in a driver's death -- that occurred while the company's autopilot system was engaged, Tesla has launched a big software update for its cars, with new navigation and improvements to autopilot.

A Bio-Hybrid Stingray Robot Powered By Rat Muscle

Popular Science

This tiny swimming robot, created by researchers at Harvard University's Department of Bioengineering and Applied Sciences, is powered by rat muscle cells, making it a biohybrid machine--part robot, part biological tissue. In order to emulate this complex motion, Parker's interdisciplinary team had to bring together an array of technologies and materials. Or as Parker puts it, "It's made from a pinch of rat, a pinch of breast implant, and a pinch of gold." "The cardiac biologist sees the implications for how the heart's built; the marine biologist sees the implications for how the stingray moves; and the robotics engineer sees the way you can use cells as a building material."

Harvard researchers built a living robot out of rat hearts


The stingray-bot is made up of four distinct layers: a silicone substrate that forms its body, a skeletal system made of gold wire, a second layer of silicone that insulates the skeleton and, finally, 200,000 genetically-engineered rat cells. What's more, the "biological life-form," as lead researcher, Kit Parker, describes it, automatically follows the light source as it swims through the nutrient-rich liquid that keeps its cells alive, allowing it to be remotely controlled. Even if it didn't need its specialized liquid, the rat cells have no immune system and would be immediately attacked by bacteria and fungal pathogens. "Roboticists and engineers can see different ways to use biological cells as building materials," Parker told Popular Mechanics.