Digital fabrication in the construction sector
As digital fabrication has evolved into a wide set of tools, techniques and approaches in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) during recent decades, this chapter sets out to summarize key moments in its preliminary roots and examine a cross section of its current states, thus providing a concise platform to frame applications and outlooks in relation to Construction 4.0. Indeed, the field of digital fabrication has advanced into a deeply interwoven, multi-machine and multi-process venture that continues to expand in scope and sophistication across a multitude of scales; a heightened capacity to collaboratively orchestrate a fluid operational continuum spanning computation, organizational models and innovative physical building processes is rapidly becoming essential for all professions involved within the spectrum of design and construction. This chapter outlines a general definition and associated benefits of digital fabrication practices, describes common applications in architecture and the construction industry and examines the current state of academic research. Upon establishing a base through which all of the above is conveyed, the chapter culminates in two case study sections. The first focuses on the DFAB HOUSE (ETH, 2017–2019), a building-scale demonstrator that incorporates six novel technologies based on research initiated and performed by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication. The second is a case study of digital fabrication as it relates to current tendencies in architectural practice, with focus on SHoP Architects (New York), a firm that has operated at the forefront of this topic over the past 20 years and continues to actively participate in the evolution of the multifaceted field.