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In the recent years, there has been an exponential growth in the use of digital manufacturing methods in different sectors, although some have been in operation for decades. The evolution of the different software has allowed us to make the most of the use of methods such as 3D printing, that has also been implemented in architecture. That's why we will talk about digital manufacturing with 3D printing and robots today, to help you explore new paths in your next projects. Keep reading!

What is digital manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing, like modelling, is a design and production process that combines several techniques, such as 3D modelling or computer-aided design (CAD). It is usually manufactured using 3D printing (additive manufacturing) or machining (also called subtractive manufacturing). These are the main and best known but, the truth is that there are many other technologies that can be used to produce designed objects as physical matter.


If we go back some years, digital manufacturing was born in 1950 with the aim of creating weapons after the Second World War by the United States. Over the following decades, it has become an advanced technique that, within the field of architecture, is no longer only used to create models, but can be extrapolated to life-size manufacturing. In any case, it is a process that considers the use of all kinds of digital tools from the conception of the idea to the completion of the product or project.



Digital manufacturing  is a concept that is changing the industry, both from a technical perspective and in terms of business models, so it is quite interesting for almost any sector. CAD software is, without a doubt, the most used tool by both architecture studios and universities to carry out this type of process, along with others such as NURBS or CAM technologies. Other tools are also used for manufacture, such as 3D printers or laser cutters, for example.

3D printing in design and architecture

Thanks to 3D printing, it is now possible to build anything we want, from vehicle parts to homes. Specially in the field of construction and architecture, 3D technologies have made a quantum leap. These are tools that are now more accessible, and industries have benefited greatly from this availability.


Beyond the models, it is possible to bring 3D printing to life-size through technologies such as the famous "Contour Crafting". This giant 3D printer was created by Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California. Thanks to it, it is possible to create the structure of a house in just 24 hours, opening up a world of possibilities. In addition, this 3D printer makes it possible to automate the development of compact structures, such as pipes or electrical wiring, among other sub-components.


Without a doubt, it is a great advance that, beyond allowing improvements in the construction field by minimizing time, is also eco-friendly, by reducing the energy used and gas emissions. In other words, its use would have a significant environmental impact. This is not the only proposal, but it does show the possibilities of digital manufacturing. Winsun New Materials has also developed one of these large 3D printers, which makes possible to build 10 houses in 24 hours. A real revolution in all senses.



Thanks to 3D printing, Modular architecture also profits from this technology, as the modules that build a house up can be pre-designed with 3D printers, further reducing manufacturing times. 

Digital manufacturing with robots

It is precisely from 3D printing that we can see that there is an increasing need to implement robots in digital manufacturing. The combination of robotic technologies together with printing allows not only a customized production and construction process, but also to obtain real time information about the status of these processes.


In other situations, digital manufacturing with robots can take place on robot arms with blockers, for example. In this sense, robotics is a much greater extension of digital manufacturing capacity, resulting in much more advanced technical and architectural design and processes. The ETH in Zurich has several of these robotic arms in its facilities, which allows the development of specific research projects linked to architecture. The visit to the digital manufacturing workshop at ETH Zurich is usually part of the programme of the MCH study trip to Zurich.






However, the materials used vary from traditional constructions and processes. The main advantage of this type of construction is that it allows to reach a greater speed and precision with lower costs, besides being able to build any type of structure, either completely or in pieces.


Master in Collective Housing UPM/ETH

The Master of Architecture in Collective HousingMCH, is a postgraduate full-time international professional program of advanced architecture design in cities and housing presented by Universidad Politécnica of Madrid (UPM) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH).  Apply now!
Next edition of the MAS in Collective Housing will start in January 2021, the application period is already opened, and it will remain so till 31.12.2020 or until vacancies are filled. 
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