What We Like This Week: Bricks, Bots, and Better Architecture

Have you heard? Our industries are changing in ways both large and small. This week, we find ourselves focused on considerate robots, courageous architecture, and the calculus of success for small manufacturers.

  • Sort, select, assemble. The dirty little secret about industrial robots today is that they’re pretty dumb—change one variable on the assembly line and everything goes to hell. Fast Company introduces us to BrickBot, developed at Autodesk’s Pier 9 facility, that can evaluate components (in this case, Legos), make decisions on the fly, and put them together in a flexible, responsive way. Hello, future of manufacturing.

  • Powerful architecture. A data center that provides energy and heat for the community around it? That’s the kind of thinking behind the Powerhouse Standard developed by Norwegian firms Snøhetta, Skanska, and other partners, according to Business Insider. And that’s just the kind of thinking the AEC Excellence Awards were created to recognize. Judges have just been announced for this year’s awards—maybe it’s time to submit your project? Hurry, though, entries are due by July 31.
  • Small and soft to the touch. If you still picture robots as large metal monstrosities or Arnold Schwarzenegger, get with the times. Two new projects show that robots can be great when they’re tiny (via Futurism) and also when they’re gentle—and based on origami (via NatGeo).

  • Location, location, location. Sure, it’s important for retailers and restaurants, but also, as it turns out, for small manufacturers (which are 94% of all manufacturers in the U.S). The New York Times explores where manufacturers choose to locate and why, and talks to our favorite CNC YouTuber, John Saunders (240+K subscribers). If you haven’t seen his amazing tutorials, here’s a good place to start: