Eva Magnisali

DataForm Lab founder, Eva Magnisali pioneers the use of industrial robotics in construction.

Last updated: 16th November 2020

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Innovation Lead: Hannah Gibson

Website:
dataformlab.com/


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Summary

Eva Magnisali is a robotics pioneer and founder of DataForm Lab, who has successfully demonstrated the impact that integrating industrial robotics can have in architecture, engineering and construction - not in the future, but right now. As well as showing the essential part robotics can play in offsite manufacturing processes, her work is also proving how the technology makes construction projects more collaborative, productive and ultimately simpler. More than anything, Eva's rare blend of experience in architecture and design, as well as robotics, has led her to approach and solve some of the industry's biggest challenges in a diverse and disruptive way. Her demystification of robotics have challenged traditional behaviours, shifted mindsets to encourage its mainstream adoption and showcase the benefits of neuro and gender-diversity in the sector.

Innovation type: Digital, Manufacturing, Process
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Innovative SME

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Project pioneers

Eva Magnisali is breaking new ground in positioning robotics as an important enabler of industry evolution. Born and schooled in Greece, Eva came to the UK for her second Masters at the Design Research Laboratory of the Architectural Association, where her thesis focused on implementing robotics in construction. After a decade studying, teaching and working in architectural robotics, her wealth of experience was self-evident and the application of her cross-sector knowledge started opening up opportunities for change in the industry. And so she set up DataForm Lab. The company, under Eva's leadership, is focused on creating new design-to-fabrication workflows that use robotic prototyping to ensure easy manufacture right from the start. She also supports clients with automation consultancy to de-risk technology innovation and demystify robotics. She has become one of the industry's most inspiring pioneers, and is now on a mission to weave industrial robotics into the fabric of construction.

The problem

Eva Magnisali recognised that the worlds of academia, construction and architecture were not always communicating with each other well. This leads to numerous inefficient processes during the design and construction phases of projects, affecting the overall whole life value of a project. Firstly, she became frustrated by significant loss of data in the transition from design to the fabrication stage, despite the fact that most building parts are designed digitally, and even more so if things need to be constructed manually - this leads to elements needing to be redesigned or rationalised before they are built. Secondly, she believes many companies try to use advanced technology to replicate existing human processes, assuming that automation needs to replace all manual ways of working. Lastly, she questions whether the industry was actually making processes more efficient by using automation, or whether some existing processes were becoming more complicated, or using automation for automation's sake.

Vision

Eva Magnisali knows that the future of construction is one that is more digitised and mobile - from data-driven workflows that link design to construction seamlessly, to working with clients to demystify the use of robotics so it becomes an integral part of projects. Eva believes everybody’s part in a programme is important and that shared knowledge of the interdisciplinary parts will make supply chains work more effectively. The future of construction is also more diverse in every way. Knowing this, Eva works as a mentor and consultant to empower other innovators. Her work at DataForm Lab supports the mass adoption of integrated industrial robotics - in saving time from the design phase throughout the project, to increasing collaboration between organisations and ultimately making the sector more productive.

Key Insight

Across the supply chain, partners are often working towards the same goals, but are not always able to deliver well because of the fragmented ways of working between academia, construction, and architecture. Eva Magnisali's experience of working across several construction disciplines allowed her to see where the gaps were, and the opportunities that would emerge if she could introduce more automated, digital processes to streamline programmes. Robotics, by its virtue of being flexible enough to allow for the redesign of existing construction processes and the invention of new ones, has enormous potential to provide solutions. This is supported by the RIBA Plan of Work (Industrialisation Mindset) and the Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge (UKRI) that both promote the benefits of Design for Manufactured Assembly (DfMA) and off-site construction. The use of industrial robotics will further accelerate the realisation of these goals at greater pace.

First step

Knowing that committing to new technologies and ways of working can be challenging, Eva Magnisali set up DataForm Lab with one simple goal in mind - demystify robotics. By helping companies better understand the benefits of using robotics, they could see how they could implement automation seamlessly into their workflows. This makes it more likely for clients to take the leap and adopt robotics. She starts by helping customers look for ways to improve productivity in their business plan and then uses platform-design and robotics-based solutions to create steps to delivery, without the client feeling like they need to be robotics experts.

Barrier

Companies are drawn to new innovations to improve the design and fabrication process, but are often reluctant to adopt robotic solutions as they can be regarded as too expensive, whereas an existing ready-made product would keep costs down. This emphasis on cost over value means clients and designers often don’t ask for automation solutions, and so construction firms and suppliers don't use them. And if construction firms don’t have the technological infrastructure or innovative fabrication processes, then designers won’t request it. This is the continuous loop that supports no-one in the industry, and needs to be interrupted.

Process innovation

Key to Eva Magnisali's approach is to encourage clients to think about the whole design-to-fabrication process of the project and introduce advanced fabrication technologies at an early design stage. She proactively tackles complex questions at the beginning not the end of the process - such as how we can cut out what we don’t need in a project to improve productivity and efficiency. By creating the rules of the design and fabrication that everyone agrees with at the beginning, this keeps a complex assembled workload simple and scalable (much like a digital manufacturing approach). Through her work at DataForm Lab, she has created a common language for more efficient communication between partners, creating greater harmony across the industry where everybody’s part is regarded as important. Having a better knowledge of interdisciplinary parts will make projects and supply chains work more effectively, and de-risking automation and creating digital workflows will support effortless communication between disciplines.

Digital Innovation

Because of the relative newness of the field, there are often information gaps among clients engaging with robotic technologies. Eva Magnisali has developed custom-made, data-driven, design-to-fabrication digital tools for clients so they can easily engage with robotic technologies. For example, she has created a seamless feedback loop for an interlocking façade system. This is a highly complex architectural task – sometimes seen as too complex to design, let alone make. Eva's consultancy and technology breaks this down into simple modules and design parameters. This results in a single component that the designer can use through a data-driven design workflow – translating simple design rules directly to robotic motion data.

Collaborators

Eva Magnisali has collaborated with ABB Robotics, one of the first and biggest robotic manufacturers worldwide, with many years of experience in the manufacturing sector. ABB forms a significant ally, providing technical feedback on the development of automated construction proposals. She has also informally built a network of fabricators who share her ethos and believe that collaborating on interdisciplinary platforms accelerates design and construction.

  • ABB Robotics

Lead support

Eva Magnisali is a member of Barclays Eagle Labs, one of the biggest UK incubators. Barclays has provided advisory support regarding business planning innovation.

Long Term Vision

Eva Magnisali used her experience across several disciplines of architecture, engineering and construction to identify and solve the fragmented nature of programme delivery. She is a pioneer for the mass adoption of integrated industrial robotics and her vision to embed it into construction processes can now been seen in her work at DataForm Lab. She has championed automated manufacturing processes to reduce delivery time and improve accuracy and quality, from the early design phase throughout the project. She has also successfully demonstrated how industrial robotics can increase collaboration between organisations, ultimately making the sector more productive.

Human Stories

Eva Magnisali is the founder of DataForm Lab and having her own company has helped her understand the business side of R&D. She appreciates the cost of research and prototyping, alongside the likelihood of commercialisation and scalability. And she has been able to use business acumen, coupled with a commitment to innovation, to bring clients along with her. Her innovative approach aims to foster harmonious collaboration between the supply chain, and helped create a new language around automation that each partner can use and feel the benefit of. She actively encourages knowledge-sharing across the industry bringing professionals together through her educational programmes, workshops and seminars on robotic construction. Having women like Eva Magnisali spearhead the use of robotics and digital manufacturing process in the industry has added important and valuable diversity to help solve some of construction's biggest challenges.

Powerful Processes

Eva Magnisali encourages her clients to think about the whole design-to-fabrication process of the project and introduce advanced fabrication technologies at an early design stage. By creating the rules of the design and fabrication that everyone agrees with at the beginning, this keeps a complex assembled workload simple and scalable (much like a digital manufacturing approach). Eva has also developed custom-made, data-driven, design-to-fabrication digital tools for clients so they can easily engage with robotic technologies. With her team at DataForm Lab, she breaks processes down so a designer can translate simple design rules directly to robotic motion data.

Benefits

Collaboration
As well as her informal network of industry designers and fabricators, Eva Magnisali collaborates with ABB Robotics, one of the first and biggest robotic manufacturers worldwide. She and ABB are planning a series of seminars for AEC professionals to demystify industrial robotics for the construction industry.

Diversity
Eva has several years of experience in architecture, academia and construction. Having such a rich pool of knowledge to draw from allows her to see the different intersections of the three disciplines - where they best meet and where they can work together well. This neurodiversity invites new concepts into the sector, offering novel opportunities for change and positively challenging the way we currently do things. Shortlisted for the UK Women in Construction and Engineering awards, and having completed her Masters in English as a second language, Eva Magnisali has found London a great place for female innovators. As she puts it, “When it comes to talent and passion, it is not about who you are or where you come from, but your mentality.” Gender diversity and neurodiversity are both critical to driving progress in architecture, construction and engineering and having women like Eva Magnisali spearheading the use of robotics and digital manufacturing process in the industry must be celebrated and encouraged. As a result of founding and managing a start-up and being a woman in innovation, Eva is passionate about mentoring, business consulting and advice to help more help pioneering innovators like herself. Eva also runs educational programmes, such as workshops and seminars on robotic construction, aimed at increasing diverse thinking within architecture, engineering and construction professionals.

Productivity
Eva Magnisali approaches the automation of offsite construction from a manufacturing perspective. Learning from manufacturing, she knows that setting different objectives (such as maximising capacity, minimising capacity variability, maximising capacity utilisation, minimising lead time, minimising lead time variability or maximising profit) can result in very different automation proposals. With her team at DataForm Lab, she uses a holistic approach for automation planning, taking into account all parameters of offsite construction – not just the technical aspect of automating a construction process.