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Three dimensional spider webs research
Stuttgart University. ITECH MSc. Winter Semester 2013
Institute for Computational Design. Prof. Achim Menges.
Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design.Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Knippers
Advisers : Moritz Dorstelman, Stefana Parascho, Marshall Prado
Students : Yassmin Al-Khasawneh, Yuliya Baranovskaya, Paul Poinet, Maria Yablonina

This project is focusing on biomimmetic analysis of three dimensional spider webs and possibilities for implementation of the research results into an architectural robotic fabrication process. We were mostly interested in investigating web construction process. How does the spider build such complex and stable structures? What are the steps and the sequence? What is the first thread?

Wall Climbing Prototype 03 (Grabby Crab)

Large part of the project was watching real spiders build their web real time. For that we have acquired a few specimen of Tegenaria Atrica(also known as a giant house spider). We were using several techniques of documenting the web building process. Besides taking photo documentation of the web state every 30 seconds, we were also 3D scanning the web using an infra red laser. In order to make sense of the building process documentation, we build software to track spiders position in every image and create a sequence of its movements throughout the construction process.


Spending some time researching the spiders we de­fined two key points of interest for us to develop fur­ther architecturally. Both aspects are closely related, they are parts of one system in different scales. On a global scale we have been looking at the concept of supporting threads in the spider web and reinforcing threads (two layers of web and two steps of the web creation process). On a local scale supporting threads are very dependent on the joints between the threads. 


Fiber to fiber interaction hasn’t been fully explored in the fiber fabrication industry yet. We abstracted spider’s thread to thread interaction techniques into 2 types of joints and the ways we can produce them. Our aim was to develop a tool for each type of joint that will allow us to connect two threads at any required point. 


In parallel with developing the physical robotic tools we started working on the digital tool to create a fabrication sequence and a catalogue of basic design potentials. As a result we have a system capable of producing complex geometries using one of the effector tools we have proposed. The key priciple of the system is using chierarchical formwork, structure and sub-structure, all made of filament materials. Thus we reduce the need for solid formwork to a simple generic frame that can be reused for multiple structures. 

We have tested the system on two physical models built by hand. We conclude that the series of methods we have developed can allow for fabrication of complex geometries using curable fibre materials. 

3D scanning the web with a laser technique

Raw scan data

Mesh result of the scan

Wrapping and passing tests. Grabby Crab

Documentation of reinforcement stage

2 stages of web building : supporting threads and reinforcement threads

Estimating thread orientation from scan results (Color lines - raw scanning data)

Overlayed results of position tracking + scanning the web

Wrapping and passing tests. Grabby Crab

Wrapping effector prototype

Wall climber prototype 02 - Happy Climber

Wall climber prototype 02 - Happy Climber. Parts diagram

Twisting prototype

Wrapping tool test

Twisting tool test

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