Robotic Foaming was a cluster within Smartgeometry 2013 which took place at the UCL Barttlet, London, UK. It was Smartgeometry's 10 year anniversary and all the workshop clusters had a high participation rate. As always Smartgeometry involves two parts, four day workshop which different clusters work on separate projects, and there is a day of public talk and a day of symposium at the last day.
I was part of Robotic Foaming cluster, its brief describes:
“Self-Supporting Filamentous Foam Structures, to explore robotics as a design interface for a non-linear fabrication process, operating in a new way between traditional representation, digital modeling and fabrication.”
Self-supporting filamentous foam structures are created by using PU foam, and experimenting with certain additives like acrylic and gypsum. The first day we experimented with the mixture of different materials. We weren't restricted in any combination, in one of my trials the chemicals had some reaction and my bucket started burning and I needed to throw the bucket to the street!
The next days, we used the robotic setup that is formed by three ABB 165 robots. The authenticity of this cluster was, it involved the precision of robotic fabrication for controlling unpredictable nature of the expansion of the foam. Because of the unpredictability, simulation in the digital environment was not enough to realize the outcome.Therefore, we need to perform many experimentations.
The process first starts with creating the path for the robots using Grasshopper and HAL. If the foam is stretched too fast, the foam will tear up, if it is too slow then it won't expand and create the structure. Also since there are three robots in the setup, they should not collide during their movement. After creating the path, the foam is created and pasted to the wooden structures connected to the robots. And lastly, the robots are operated. During the expansion, sometimes the foam falls of the robot, or gets teared up, so it is not always successful.
Overall it was fun to play with the foams and be creative with it. Besides, it gave the chance to try experiment the usage of industrial robots in fabrication. You can find a cool photo of us in our breaking bad suits!