Architects Turn to Cutting-Edge Construction Robotics to Realize Vision

In the News
May 31, 2016

Designs previously believed impossible now within reach, thanks to Dutch research and a Danish startup.

Odense, Denmark, is home to many industry-leading robotics institutes and enterprises. Odico Formwork ApS is one of the companies that have emerged from this European robotics epicenter, and it has already made a few waves internationally.

Established in 2012, Odico‘s vision from the start has been to revolutionize the concrete and architecture industries through the use of innovative software and robotics. The company’s technology has already been put to the test in both small and large construction projects.

Recently, Odico was hired by the contractor for late architect Zaha Hadid’s new Opus Tower in Dubai to produce the molds for the frames that support the curved windows of the building (see image above).

“Via an automated process, we made almost 2,500 unique polystyrene molds in just a few weeks,” said Anders Bundsgaard, managing director at Odico. “The constructor of the Opus building came to us, as everybody else had turned down the job, because it had to be completed in a very short time.”

“The fact that we are able to make molds for construction purposes this fast says something about the potential of our technology,” he said. “I have been told that it took a year to mill the advanced facade of the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I’m quite sure that we could have produced those molds in just about three weeks.”

How does it work?

The technology behind the hotwire cutting is patent-pending software that allows for geometrically challenging molds to be cut approximately 100 times faster than competing technologies, such as CNC (computerized numerical controlled) cutting and milling.

Clients’ 3D files and designs are realized by coordinated robotic movements, which cut advanced molds in expanded polystyrene. Odico has 12 robots with names like “The Hot One,” “The Long One,” and “The Colorful.”

These robots vary by function, such as a track-mounted robot that can reach 24 meters and a robot mounted on a pedestal that can work on pieces up to 5 meters tall.

“We have developed our technology with a combination of three elements: a third software, a third hardware, and a third insight into geometry and architecture,” said Bundsgaard. “The hardware we use is standard; we just teach the robot to do something new.”

“For molds used in construction, we usually cut into polystyrene because it’s cheap and recyclable. But we can cut anything from concrete, marble, wood, ice, rock wool—you name it!” he said. “We can also put a nozzle at the end of the robotic arm and make it spray paint or apply other coatings or treatments to a surface.”

From construction robotics research to startup

Odico was established in 2012. It all began one day when architect Asbjørn Søndergaard called Bundsgaard and said, “I need a robot, can you help me?”

At the time, Bundsgaard was working for a robotics company, and he answered, “Yes, but you probably won’t be able to use it.”

Søndergaard said he replied: “I realize that, but I have a good friend down in Delft, Holland, who is researching ways of making industry robots move in new ways based on input from 3D drawings.”

That Dutch friend was Jelle Feringa, and today, the three of them are co-owners of...

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