CantiBox, a robotically assembled structure by Gramazio Kohler Research

Become A Digital Member

Subscribe only for €3.99 per month.
Cancel anytime!


CantiBox is a robotically assembled structure, designed by ETH Zurich Gramazio Kohler Research in 2021-2022, that represents a novel application of the design and automatic assembly of interlocking timber-to-timber connections.

If you love timber, you might have a lot to say about this material, and how it is amazing. But, if you work with timber, you may know the drama that incorrect joinery can cause… Or perhaps you had some struggles with the lack of precision to assemble it in a proper way.

We all know the requirements to work with wood and timber… Right?

Lots of tools; like saws, clippers, chisels, and some other hands to improve the velocity of the work. The need for manual adjustments depends on how good you are with woodworking tools. And perhaps even the best woodworkers in the world suffer from this time-consuming task: the wood may not fit as intended.

Thanks to robotics and automation, this is getting in the past, and Gramazio Kholer and his research team are carving this future out of wood with applied intelligence; and robots. Automatic clamps and screwdrivers collaborate with an industrial robotic arm, grabbing and carving, automatically assembling all the structure tridimensionally.


With this approach, Gramazio Kohler’s Research Team could build CantiBox; a futuristic Timber Facade. Designed with this robotic interconnection assembly method, CantiBox has 60 linear elements that have 3 unities, of 10×10 cm solid spruce, and each unity contains 36 customized lap joints. Those joints were designed using the static theory of limit analysis.

This method is based on the plastic theory, which assumes that the material exhibits a finite amount of yielding or plastic deformation before breaking. It involves calculating the maximum load that can be applied to the structure while maintaining a state of plastic equilibrium, taking into account the plastic behavior of the material and the geometry of the structure. This way, the whole structure can be assembled with the proper tension, shaping the bespoke design out of those timbers, and distributing tension along the wood to create this experimental project.


This way, with the whole structure being assembled with the proper tension; the bespoke design form is getting shaped out of those timbers as the distributing tension along the wood.

This experimental project expresses itself in many great forms, but these two approaches for joint timber structures may create great possibilities:
The analysis of tension-limit in interlocking designs, using timbers;
And, the use of robot arms and tools in order to achieve an assembly process fully automated.

Gramazio Kohler’s Research team is cutting-edge providing large assembly forces and avoiding misalignments with robotic arms and joints designed to expand the current state-of-the-art modus operands of timber structures.

With Cantibox, not only is the limit interlocked with wood;
But the boundaries of time itself.


Project Info

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich: Victor Pok Yin Leung (project lead), Aleksandra Anna Apolinarska, Lauren Vasey, Gonzalo Casas
In collaboration with: Chair of Structural Design, ETH Zurich (Davide Tanadini, Giulia Boller), Professorship of Structural Design, TU Munich (Prof. Dr. Pierluigi D’Acunto), Digital Structures, MIT Boston (Yijiang Huang)
Selected Experts: Prof. Dr. Agatha Koller, Marco Rossi (ILT, OST, Rapperswil), Caelan Garrett (NVIDIA Seattle Robotics Research Lab, USA)
Support: Philippe Fleischmann and Michael Lyrenmann (NCCR Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich), Rodrigo Mendoza Diaz, Dario Quaglia, Valentin Ribi, Louis Strologo and Leandro Nahuel Barroso (ETH Zurich), Luca Steiner (ILT, OST, Rapperswil)
Selected contractor: AUER Holzbau

Share with a friend:

Learn about parametric and computational from the online courses at the PAACADEMY:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become A Digital Member

Subscribe only for €3.99 per month. Cancel anytime!

Weekly Newsletter in Your Inbox

Explore More

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter