The Type-Robot visits TYPO Labs 2018

An industrial robotic arm cutting letterforms into styrofoam? What sounds like a type-geek’s dream became reality at this year’s TYPO Labs conference. For three days, an industrial robot in the hallway was hard at work carving out letters with a hot wire cutter. Surrounded by a flock of curious attendees and stacks of styrofoam boards, the large robotic arm was a focal point in the conference space and easily topped the list of peculiarities.

By Maciej Nadobnik


This year at TYPO Labs, a representation from écal made a striking appearance. In their self-introductory talk they covered the masters typography course, a recent addition to the program of the Swiss design school. Among other activities it features robotic calligraphy workshops. In addition to the report, this unique experience was brought to life to every visitor at Umweltforum.

TYPO Labs 2018

écal at TYPO Labs 2018

Equipping an industrial-grade machine with a common hobby tool opened a new appealing space to explore. To engage with it, one needed to part with the precise control provided by modern digital formats and go back to the very analog foundation of letterforms — the tool. By experimenting with its shape and movement path the crew created specimen of a delightfully varied graphic style. Admittedly, even for the experienced operator it was difficult to predict the exact outcome, a condition inherent to working with such intricate medium.

The automated calligraphy system is meant to educate young typographers and it fulfills this role in an approachable and tactile way. It reminds the fundamental rules of typography and states that what you see is not always what you get.