A Compound Arm Approach to Digital Construction

A Mobile Large-Scale Platform for On-site Sensing, Design, and Digital Fabrication
  • Steven KeatingEmail author
  • Nathan A. Spielberg
  • John Klein
  • Neri Oxman


We introduce a novel large-scale Digital Construction Platform (DCP) for on-site sensing, analysis, and fabrication. The DCP is an in-progress research project consisting of a compound robotic arm system comprised of a 5-axis Altec hydraulic mobile boom arm attached to a 6-axis KUKA robotic arm. Akin to the biological model of human shoulder and hand this compound system utilizes the large boom arm for gross positioning and the small robotic arm for fine positioning and oscillation correction respectively. The platform is based on a fully mobile truck vehicle with a working reach diameter of over 80 feet. It can handle a 1,500 lb lift capacity and a 20 lb manipulation capacity. We report on the progress of the DCP and speculate on potential applications including fabrication of non-standard architectural forms, integration of real-time on-site sensing data, improvements in construction efficiency, enhanced resolution, lower error rates, and increased safety. We report on a case study for platform demonstration through large-scale 3D printing of insulative formwork for castable structures. We discuss benefits and potential future applications.


Digital fabrication Robotics Large-scale fabrication 3D printing Insulated formwork Digital construction platform (DCP) 



We would like to acknowledge Altec Industries for their support of this project and technical assistance. In addition, this research was supported in part by an NSF EAGER grant award #1152550 “Bio-Beams: Functionally Graded Rapid Design and Fabrication”. We would like to thank the Mediated Matter group and the MIT Media Lab for their kind help and support. Specifically, we would like to acknowledge Ali AlShehab, Benjamin Jennet, Dr. David Wallace, Dr. Franz Hover, Hannah Barrett, Sergio Falcon, Will Bosworth and Xiaoyue Xie for their assistance with this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Keating
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nathan A. Spielberg
    • 1
  • John Klein
    • 1
  • Neri Oxman
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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