Sound studio

‘sound structures’ by nFrontier: a human-robot collaboration

‘sound structures’ by nfrontier: a new workflow

Based in Berlin nBorder has developed ‘Sound Structures’, a collaborative manufacturing process between humans and robots for sound absorbing panels using Formvlies and Franka Emika tactile Panda robots. Starting from research into sound absorbing structures, the exciting new case study draws on materials research, process innovation and HRC to create a system of individual and unique structural felt panels made from a single thermoforming mould.

“We started the project to develop a new workflow, where touch robots and humans perform a set of tasks in a truly collaborative way, coming together in true teamwork, rather than working alongside each other. others in a manufacturing environment,’ says Daniel Büning, CEO of nFrontier.

the prototyping process

To achieve noise reduction, the crew at nFrontier has adopted two fundamental strategies. The first is to dissipate sound energy with the lengthening of the sound path by increasing the area and typology of the reflective surface. The second follows the principle of mechanical damping, where sound energy is transformed into kinetic energy by moving fibers in a fabric. ‘The challenge was to develop a manufacturing process for panels with different surface topologies and a smooth surface texture.e,’ explains the studio.

‘Sound Structures’ by nFrontier: forming tools held by robotic arms

Prototyping of nFrontier “sound structures” began by thermoforming wire patterns, origami textures and moving objects onto sheets of PET as a quick way to obtain and test different topologies and surfaces. The following iterations were made using Formvlies, a moldable two-component thermoplastic felt, with soft surfaces that provide the right mix of deformability and structural capabilities for optimized sound absorption properties.

In a newly developed process similar to vacuum forming, the felt is squeezed, heated, and then shaped between an inflatable membrane from below and a special case inserted from above. The case contains moving spheres of different sizes modified each time to ensure that each panel has a unique yet recognizable geometry.

nfrontier develops innovative design and manufacturing process for sound-absorbing felt panel systems in human-robot collaboration 6
activation of the heating process by tactile feedback

“We were particularly interested in the tension created between the random shuffling of the spheres – mimicking the movement of the human hand – and the strictly repetitive pre-programmed actions of the tactile robots.,’ Notes from Buning.

The molding process involves two robots performing respective tasks in parallel with a human operator, in which new material is inserted and mold panels are manually removed. After activation by tactile feedback, the first robot ensures that the felt is evenly heated to a precise and required temperature. Then a second robot is programmed to move the mould, repositioning the spheres inside to ensure a different layout each time before precisely placing them in the molding device. nfrontier develops innovative design and manufacturing process for sound absorbing felt panel systems in human robot collaboration 7

activation of the randomization process by tactile feedback

“The end product is a system of unique 3D shaped panels with a felt texture that can be arranged in different patterns. Each panel topology is defined by the arrangement of the mold spheres at any given time and designed to increase its surface area. Combined with the properties of soft surfaces and the qualities of Formvlies, this is the key to achieving the desired sound absorption properties needed to reduce the level of surrounding noise,’ writes nFrontier.