Design of a Multi-agent, Fiber Composite Digital Fabrication System developed by The Mediated Matter Group, Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
FIBERBOTS is a digital fabrication platform fusing cooperative robotic manufacturing with abilities to generate highly sophisticated material architectures. The platform can enable design and digital fabrication of large-scale structures with high spatial resolution leveraging mobile fabrication nodes, or robotic ‘agents’, designed to tune the material make-up of the structure being constructed on the fly as informed by their environment.
Some of nature’s most successful organisms collaborate in a swarm fashion. Nature’s builders leverage hierarchical structures in order to control and optimize multiple material properties. Spiders, for instance, spin protein fibers to weave silk webs with tunable local and global material properties, adjusting their material composition and fiber placement to create strong yet flexible structures optimized to capture prey. Other organisms, such as bees, ants, and termites cooperate to rapidly build structures much larger than themselves.
The FIBERBOTS are a swarm of robots designed to wind fiberglass filament around themselves to create high-strength tubular structures. These structures can be built in parallel and interwoven to rapidly create architectural structures. The robots are mobile and use sensor feedback to control the length and curvature of each individual tube according to paths determined by a custom, environmentally informed, flocking-based design protocol. This provides designers the ability to control high-level design parameters that govern the shape of the resulting structure without needing to tediously provide commands for each robot by hand.
The 16 robots, including the design system to control them, were developed in-house and deployed to autonomously create a 4.5m tall structure. The structure remained outside and undamaged through Massachusetts’s winter months, demonstrating the potential of this enabling technology towards future collaborative robotic systems to create once in-feasible designs in potentially far-reaching environments.