Metal Sky

Automated Folding of Sheet Metal Components with a Six-axis Industrial Robot

A collaborative project led by Rachel Vroman, manager of the Digital Fabrication Lab at Harvard GSD, Justin Lavallee, Director of Architecture Shops at MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and Yair Keshet.

Through the automation of folding of sheet metal components by a six axis industrial robot we explored the integration of parametrically-driven design and fabrication tools and its real-world implementation. Developed out of research into new possibilities presented by direct programming of flexible, digitally-driven, industrial tools, this project intends to speculate about the future implementation of parametric modeling tools in the field of design, and associated new, parametrically variable, fabrication processes.


We explored the relationship between designer and machine, between data and craft, and tested conjectures about scale of production, through the digital creation, physical cutting, mental tracking, robotic folding, manual riveting, and sometimes painful installation of five hundred and thirty two unique sheet metal components. Such evaluations give insight into possible trajectories for development of new models of fabrication processes, questioning the scale and intellectual scope appropriate for custom fabrication environments, and the implicit need to then evaluate the incorporation of digital craft in design pedagogy.

For more information, download the white paper, as presented in Banff at Acadia. Also explore the video link.