Façade Robot


The goal of the PLOT­BOT/CRAWLER re­search pro­ject is to de­vel­op a web-based, sen­sor-guid­ed au­to­ma­ton – a mo­bile robot that can be used to func­tio­n­al­ize build­ing sur­faces via the ap­pli­ca­tion of com­plex lay­er sys­tems. Its thor­ough in­te­gra­tion of tool and soft­ware log­ic al­lows it to be guid­ed over the sur­faces of struc­tu­ral el­e­ments in re­al time, re­gard­less of ge­ome­try, or di­rect­ed to fol­low a pre­pro­grammed pat­tern. The de­vel­op­ment of Plot­bot/Crawler en­com­pass­es four in­ter­de­pen­dent mo­d­ules: an “all in one” me­chan­i­cal com­po­nent in­clud­ing ef­fec­tors, sen­sors, and mo­bile base unit; struc­tured yet flex­i­ble con­trol soft­ware; a hard­ware-soft­ware in­ter­face; and a web in­ter­face for tech­ni­cal sup­port and en­hanced us­er com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The pro­ject al­so has a spe­cif­ic use case to ad­dress: the task of ap­p­ly­ing and main­tain­ing the DysCrete lay­er­ing sys­tem. DysCrete is a type of dye-sen­si­tized elec­tric­i­ty-gen­er­at­ing con­crete whose elec­tro­chem­i­cal coat­ing must be reap­plied at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals cor­re­spond­ing to typ­i­cal main­te­nance sche­d­ules for sur­face fin­ish­es on build­ing fa­cades.


Through the de­vel­op­ment of Plot­bot/Crawler, the re­search team is al­so an­sw­er­ing ques­tions in phys­i­cal com­put­ing – that is, in the con­struc­tion of in­ter­ac­tive phys­i­cal sys­tems that act on the re­al world and ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship of hu­mans to the dig­i­tal world. The com­bi­na­tion of Plot­bot/Crawler, database, and build­ing fa­cade is a per­fect ex­am­ple of such a sys­tem, link­ing IT/soft­ware-based com­po­nents with phys­i­cal/me­chan­i­cal and elec­tron­ic parts that com­mu­ni­cate via a da­ta in­fras­truc­ture such as the in­ter­net. Through pro­cess­es of self-op­ti­miza­tion, self-con­fig­u­ra­tion, self-di­ag­no­sis, and cog­ni­tion, such sys­tems can make es­sen­tial au­to­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies more in­tel­li­gent and bet­ter able to sup­port hu­mans in in­creas­ing­ly com­plex life and work si­t­u­a­tions. While the de­vel­op­ment of th­ese sys­tems has been slow in the con­struc­tion field, it is an area of great in­ter­est: in re­sponse to the chal­lenge posed by the sus­tain­able and eco­nom­i­cal con­ver­sion of the world’s build­ing stock (green con­struc­tion), for ex­am­ple, it of­fers a con­cep­tu­al yet hands-on ap­proach to tap­ping the po­ten­tial that tech­nol­o­gy-ori­ent­ed, flex­i­ble pro­duc­tion holds for this sec­tor.


Mod­i­fi­ca­tions to Plot­bot/Crawler al­low users to in­te­grate a va­ri­e­ty of spe­cif­ic func­tio­n­al sys­tems in­to built struc­tures via print­ing pro­cess­es. Ex­am­ples of such func­tio­n­al sys­tems might in­clude print­ed sen­sor sys­tems, phys­i­cal-com­put­ing fa­cades, pear­les­cent pig­ment lay­ers, pho­to­graph­ic-con­crete fa­cades, mul­ti­col­ored ar­chi­tec­tu­ral graph­ics, wayfind­ing sys­tems, re­flec­tive or lu­mi­nes­cent sur­faces, de­c­o­ra­tive lay­ers, and sealants. Plot­bot/Crawler can al­so be mod­i­fied to func­tion as an on-site 3-D prin­t­er. This is an ide­al mod­i­fi­ca­tion for res­tor­ing ge­o­met­ri­cal­ly com­plex struc­tures of his­tor­i­cal build­ings (print­ed brick or sand­s­tone). The aim is to find so­lu­tions that ex­ploit this po­ten­tial while al­so ac­com­mo­dat­ing the par­tic­u­lar de­mands of the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. In this re­spect, the ap­proach tak­en by the Plot­bot/Crawler pro­ject is dist­inc­tive yet typ­i­cal. Both the ad­di­tive lay­er­ing and the clear in­ter­face def­i­ni­tion pro­vid­ed by this com­bi­na­tion of high tech (Plot­bot/Crawler) and low tech (fa­cade el­e­ment) of­fer nov­el ben­e­fits.



research & project funding

  • Research Initiative Future Building
  • Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development
  • Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)

cooperation partner

team members

  • Timo Gundelach
  • Jan Juraschek
  • Thorsten Klooster
  • Heike Klussmann
  • Nils Kühn
  • Christian Wagner