Posts tagged with "digital fabrication":

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3D printed pavilion in Ohio recreates the sun’s path at night

A luminous, arched pavilion in Ohio aims to highlight the potential of 3D fabrication techniques, and to so it's mounting a Promethean stunt. The so-called Solar Bytes Pavilion grabs sunlight during the day and radiates light when it gets dark, recreating the day's solar conditions minute-by-minute throughout the night. Brian Peters helped found DesignLabWorkshop in 2008, eventually settling in Kent, Ohio. Their latest project is the Solar Bytes Pavilion, a continuum of 94 unique modules (“bytes”) 3D printed in ceramic bricks covered with white, translucent plastic. Peters and his team then put solar-powered LEDs in each of the bytes, snapping them together in a self-supporting, arched pavilion just big enough for a few people to huddle inside. 3DPrint.com got some detail on the fabrication process:
...he used a 6-axis robot arm located at the Robotic Fabrication Lab at Kent State. A hand welding extruder, called the Mini CS, was attached to the robot arm to serve as the 3D printhead, and it extrudes plastic material in a sort of FDM-style process. The technology, provided by Hapco Inc. and called BAK/DOHLE, is employed by universities, government agencies, and concerns like the University of Michigan, Oak Ridge Laboratory, the US Department of Energy, and the University of Tennessee.
The pavilion debuted at Cleveland's Ingenuity Fest.
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Arktura Forms Gensler’s Frameworks

Framework is made of 260 unique steel boxes, laser-cut and sculpted on an 18-axis metal forming machine.

When designers at Gensler's Dallas office dreamt up plans for a serpentine steel screen composed of hundreds of perforated cells, they enlisted the design-build talents of Arktura, based in Gardena, California, 14 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Though still mostly architects, Arktura's staff includes mechanical engineers and even a physicist. The company’s 50,000-square-foot space includes a design studio, an engineering studio, and manufacturing space where they produce furniture, architectural products, and custom projects—like the one Gensler took to calling “Frameworks: Cellure Structure.” “It's in our DNA to allow a lot of flexibility when we're working with design teams,” said Sebastian Muñoz, director of project design and development. Gensler's concept remained intact through numerous redesigns, Muñoz said, but getting it right required a lot of flexibility.
  • Fabricator Arktura
  • Designers Gensler, Arktura
  • Location Houston, TX
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • Material Steel, rivets
  • Process 3D modeling, laser cutting, 18-axis metal forming, riveting
“They wanted something that was really elegant and light but very architectural. They wanted it to have spatial qualities,” said Muñoz. The form wends organically across two axes, wrapping up and partially enclosing a space in the lobby of their confidential corporate client's Houston offices. To get that lightness without sacrificing structural stability, Arktura had to develop custom software solutions. The screen is made of 260 unique steel boxes, laser-cut and sculpted on an 18-axis metal forming machine. The solution kept the complex project within budget, said Muñoz, which would have been impossible if they had used custom molds for each box. Opting for cleverly formed sheet metal over pricey composite materials also reined in the project's budget-busting potential. Once they were molded, the metal boxes needed to be aligned perfectly so the inside of the ribbon-like enclosure would appear as one continuous unit. At the same time, they wanted the outside cells to protrude on one end, poking out slightly like scales. That is where Arktura's custom software came in. Though it does not yet have a name, Muñoz said the digital design tool could have other applications in the future. Arktura manufactured the object in nine separate modules before shipping it to Texas, where it was assembled on site. In all, the piece uses 9,500 rivets with 14,000 points of alignment. The massive steel screen appears to tiptoe on a raised floor, but is fastened securely to the concrete slab beneath on custom footings. Muñoz credits New York City–based Laufs Engineering and Design with simultaneously giving the project a powerful presence and an almost airy lightness. Gensler's team—Chris Campbell, Ted Watson, Paul Manno, Emily Shively, and Amanda Kendall—punctured each steel box so sunlight could pour through. The aperture varies on either end of those cavities, as well as from box to box, creating distinct qualities of light inside the space enclosed by Frameworks.
Shelves and lighting added after installation help hightlight vendors and exhibitors who sometimes use the space to show off their goods. As the wending form tapers off away from the shelves, the shape provides a natural space for a retail desk.
Muñoz said without the combination of custom software and clever prefabrication techniques, the manufacturing process would have seriously compromised the design. Now it's possible to imagine pulling off future projects with the same level of complexity. “The computing power was not possible not that long ago," he said. "We're excited about it.”
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UT Student Installation Takes SXSW

A room-filling parametric design makes its way from the classroom to Austin's famous music festival.

When Kory Bieg and his students at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture began working on Caret 6, they had no idea that it would wind up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival. But the rippling, room-filling installation soon took on a life of its own. Within months, Bieg’s undergraduates—who had little previous exposure to digital design—had designed and fabricated Caret 6, and assembled and disassembled it twice, first at the TEX-FAB SKIN: Digital Assemblies Symposium in February, and then at Austin’s most famous annual gathering in March. Caret 6 developed out of a research studio taught by Bieg, who is also associate director of the regional digital fabrication and parametric design network TEX-FAB. Selected to chair TEX-FAB’s annual design competition, Bieg knew that he would soon face a problem: how to display the winning entry in a gallery much larger than it. He put his students to work on a solution. “The idea was to create a kind of counterpoint to the winning entry. [We] needed to fill space,” said Bieg. At the same time, the studio would teach the fundamentals of digital fabrication. “It was really just an experimental exploration of what these tools could produce,” he said. Caret 6’s white and grey diamond-shaped cells cascade from a central catenary vault with three column bases. Two secondary vaults project from either side. The front face of the structure flows down to the floor. “The idea is, we didn’t actually know who the winner [of TEX-FAB: SKIN] would be,” said Bieg. “We wanted to design a ground surface that was modular so that we could replace some of the cells with bases for their models.” The 17 students enrolled in Bieg’s course first created individual study models of aggregations and weavings amenable to digital fabrication. In an internal competition, they narrowed the field to three. Bieg broke the studio into teams, each of which experimented with creating volumetric versions of the designs. In a departure from typical parametric installations, Bieg and his students decided to stay away from patterns that gradually expand and contrast. “Our interest was not [in] doing subtlety, but local variations that are quite abrupt, like going from a large cell to a small cell,” said Bieg. “So part of that was a result of the way we structured it. Instead of aggregating cells, we designed a series of ribs.” The primary ribs form the vaults’ seams, while the secondary and tertiary ribs divide the structure into asymmetrical pockets. Halfway through the semester, Bieg called Alpolic Materials, whose Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)—a thin polyethylene core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum—he had worked with on an earlier project. Alpolic agreed to donate supplies for Caret 6, “so we refined the design according to the material we had,” said Bieg. He also drafted students from UT engineering to calibrate the structure’s thickness, scale, and cantilever distances. “It kind of just evolved from these different processes coming in,” said Bieg.
  • Fabricator Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Designers Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion February 2014
  • Material Alpolic Materials ACM, polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, binder clips, bolts, o-rings
  • Process Grasshopper, Kangaroo, 3ds Max, CNC milling, manual assembly
Back in the studio, Bieg’s students used 3ds Max for form studies and Kangaroo, a Grasshopper plug-in, to fit the tessellated diamond pattern to the vaults. They also used Grasshopper to develop an assembly system of binder rings, bolts, and o-rings. Bieg and his team fabricated the installation using UT’s CNC mill. They cut the vault pieces out of Alpolic ACM. The elements closest to the floor are polypropylene, while the intermediary pieces are high-density polyethylene. The students assembled and disassembled Caret 6 manually. At first, they tried working with a QR-code system, scanning each component to determine its location. When this took too long, they projected a digital model of the form on a screen, then called out each piece by number. For SXSW, where they had only six hours for assembly, they subdivided the structure into sections that could be quickly recombined on site. Caret 6 travels to Houston in September, where it will rejoin the entire TEX-FAB: SKIN show. But while the installation has already moved beyond its original context, Bieg insists that it remains rooted in the SKIN competition brief, which focused on building envelopes leveraging metal fabrication systems. “[Caret 6 is] not really a program per se, but more of an experiment about the same concepts that were part of the exhibits at TEX-FAB,” he said.
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Boston Valley Brings a 100-Year-Old Dome into the Digital Age

Boston Valley Terra Cotta restored the Alberta Legislature Building's century-old dome using a combination of digital and traditional techniques.

Restoring a century-old terra cotta dome without blueprints would be a painstaking process in any conditions. Add long snowy winters and an aggressive freeze/thaw cycle, and things start to get really interesting. For their reconstruction of the Alberta Legislature Building dome, the craftsmen at Boston Valley Terra Cotta had a lot to think about, from developing a formula for a clay that would stand up to Edmonton’s swings in temperatures, to organizing just-in-time delivery of 18,841 components. Their answer? Technology. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with Omar Khan at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Orchard Park, New York, firm’s employees are as comfortable with computers as they are with hand tools. On site in Edmonton, technicians took a 3D laser scan of the dome prior to disassembly. They also tagged specific terra cotta pieces to send to New York as samples. These pieces, which ranged from simple blocks to gargoyles and capitals, went straight to the in-house lab for scanning into Rhino. The drafting department combined the overall scan with the individual scans to create a total picture of the dome’s surface geometry and depth. The individual scans, in addition, were critical to making the approximately 508 unique molds employed on the project. To compensate for the eight percent shrinkage clay goes through during drying and firing, the craftsmen at Boston Valley used to have to perform a series of calculations before building a mold. “[Now we] take the scan data and increase by eight percent by simply doing a mouse click,” said Boston Valley national sales manager Bill Pottle. In some cases, the craftsmen converted the scan data into a tool path for the five-axis CNC machine used to make the molds. “We’re doing that more and more in some of our mold making. It also allows us to ensure that we’re recreating them to the most exacting tolerance and dimensions that we can,” said Pottle. The data from the 3D scans also helped the craftsmen replicate the dome’s complicated curvature. “Between the scanned pieces and the scan of the dome itself, we were able to figure out some very complex geometry where each of these individual pieces had the correct shape to them,” said Pottle.
  • Facade Manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta
  • Architects Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Allan Merrick Jeffers, Richard Blakey
  • Location Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • Date of Completion November 2013
  • System terra cotta rain screen
For sustainability and durability, the designers at Boston Valley reconfigured the dome as a rain screen system, with terra cotta components attached to a stainless steel frame. But while the rain screen boosts environmental performance, it also demands incredible precision. Again, the 3D models proved invaluable. “The models allowed these tight tolerances. [We] could explode it and make sure everything was connected. It would have been impossible without that level of sophisticated software,” said president John Krouse. The Alberta Legislature Building dome restoration is the first major project on which Boston Valley has unleashed its full array of digital design tools. Krouse hopes its success—he estimates that the digital tools speeded fabrication by 200 percent—will send a message to designers interested in experimenting with terra cotta: “What we’re trying to say to the architecture and design community globally is don’t be afraid to start designing domes with complex geometry, because we’re equipped with all this technology. It doesn’t have to be a square box.”
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Reinventing the Facade: SKIN Competition Names Four First Stage Finalists

Tex-Fab has concluded the initial stage of its international competition called SKIN. The two-stage competition invited architects, designers, and researchers to rethink the traditional building envelope by exploring the performative qualities of a facade. Participants selected any context, real or virtual, at any scale and on any building type. Phase one jurors narrowed down 68 entries from across the world to four finalists and four honorable mentions. Jurors Phil Anzalone, Maria Mingallon, Gregg Pasquarelli, Randy Stratman, and Skylar Tibbits conferred on July 9th and initially selected 14 entries to discuss. Varying in type and method, the entries depicted a diverse display of ideas and work, compelling the jury to choose four finalists and four honorable mentions. Finalists include Project 2XmT by Christopher Romero and Nicholas Bruscia, Cellular Complexity by Kais Al-Rawi, Julia Koerner, and Marie Boltenstern, Robot Assisted Sheet Metal Fabrication by Lik Hang Gu, Nathan Shobe, and Qi Su, and Sense by Isak Worre Foged and ANke Pasold. The first of the finalists, Project 2XmT, has a visibly developed working model and reveals the dramatic impact from various viewpoints created by small undulations or shifting panels. Juror Skylar Tibbits commented that “it’s the one most in line with the brief.” The next finalist, Cellular Complexity, has an appealing formal potential that tests the limits of architecture. Juror Phillip Anzalone remarked, “If it’s truly developed 3-dimensionally that would be fantastic.” Robotic Assisted Sheet Metal Fabrication was chosen as a finalist in context with the project per-Forming (HM), which received honorable mention, as both interacted with metal forming in distinctive, yet complimentary aspects. Juror Maria Mingallon trusts that “this one could really push the boundaries of TEX-FAB and could add to the exhibition at ACADIA." The last finalist, Sense, is simple with potential to be very dynamic. Tibbits remarked “it’s a known phenomena that could produce some exciting effects." Honorable mentions include Organized Crime by Kyle Miller, Evaporative Folding by Jeana Ripple, Hydromorph by Camden Greenlee and Brian Vesely, and per-FORMING by Jake Newsum and Ammar Kalo. The phase two jury includes Michele Addington, James Carpenter, Neil Denari, Mic Patterson, and William Zahner. Moving onto the second round, the four finalists will use $1000 stipends to develop prototypes of their projects, which will be installed at the ACADIA Adaptive Architecture Conference at the University of Waterloo in October 2013. At that time, the jurors will select a winner whose scheme will be assembled in full scale for the TEX-FAB 4.0 conference.
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The Cartesian Collection: A 17th Century Design Reboot

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An ambitious designer used Rhino to design and fabricate 20 variations on a chair in four months.

For a designer aiming to streamline the gap between design and manufacturing, parametric modeling tools are a natural solution. LA-based Alexander Purcell Rodrigues found a place to work in just such a way at the Neal Feay Company (NF), a 60-year old fabrication studio in Santa Barbara, California, that is known for its exceptional metalworking. Together, the designer and the fabrication studio created the Cartesian Collection of chairs, aptly named for the analytic geometry that helped facilitate close to 20 design variations on the same aluminum frame in just under four months. “Not only were we pushing the boundaries of aluminum fabrication, the aim was to simultaneously create a lean manufacturing process,” said Rodrigues. Using Rhino with a Grasshopper plugin, Rodrigues developed a design for a chair that weaves together the simplicity of Western design with the complex ornamentation of traditional Eastern aesthetics. While the lines of the chair are clean and smooth, intricate embellishments on the back traverse multiple planes and angles, all on a shrunken scale. The time savings involved in designing with Rhino allowed the creation of another 19 variations on the theme.
  • Fabricators Neal Feay Company
  • Designers Alexander Purcell Rodrigues
  • Location California
  • Date of Completion May 2013
  • Material aluminum, ombré anodized finish, screws, oak, walnut, upholstery
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, SolidWorks, Mastercam, CNC milling
Rather than working with large billets of aluminum, Rodrigues and NF’s Alex Rasmussen opted to fabricate the chair from ½-inch stock, with an option for wooden legs or an upholstered seat. “The most difficult thing was the back rest because it required the most unconventional process,” said Rasmussen. “Once it was bent into a the basic form, the back was put into a four-axis machine that works in an X, Y, Z, and rotational axis to apply texture.” An anodized finish, which transitions between two colors for an ombré effect, adds to the bespoke appearance. Working collaboratively to solve hiccups in the fabrication process was a key component to the success of the project, and experimenting with tool paths helped create new patterns. Manipulating the original design in Grasshopper accounted for even minute deflections in the real-world fabrication scenario. “With this formula, you can play with variables that go in a hundred directions and multiply quickly,” Rodrigues said of the freedom of working in the program. “The world is your oyster in Grasshopper.” The team worked with aluminum for the frame of the chairs, a material choice that was made in part due to the fact that NF specializes in the material. In addition, the lightweight metal allowed a greater degree of accuracy than injection or press molding. “You can get all the screw caps and holes so exact with a precision of perfection you can’t recreate in other materials,” said Rodrigues. “And experimenting with the ombré anodized finish, NF pushed the boundaries very well, for something so thin and elegant.”
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MIT Media Lab Enlists 6,500 Silkworms to 3D Print a Dome Pavilion

A new pavilion created by the Mediated Matter research group at MIT’s Media Lab explores the intersection between material technology, computation, and biological and digital fabrication on an architectural scale. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to create a 3D cocoon out of a single, 1 km thread, a team of researchers led by architect Neri Oxman created a fibrous, CNC-fabricated scaffold made from 26 polygonal panels and laid out in silk thread. They then let loose 6,500 silkworms onto the frame to fill in the gaps and reinforce the structure. The structure’s silk armature was created by an algorithm, based on site-specific solar trajectories and research on the worms’ behavior, which was then built upon by the worms’ on-site reaction to the structure’s geometries and environmental factors, including heat, light, and density. The worms were attracted to darker and denser areas, leaving a large aperture in the pavilion’s southeast side and producing some areas thicker than others. Mediated Matter’s research with the Silk Pavilion opens up new possibilities for the creation of functionally graded material objects (think the varied, porous interior of bone as opposed to the homogeneity of concrete), fibrous systems for the construction of habitable space, and bio-synthetic structures that are capable of interacting with heir environments. Like their (ideal) mechanical counterparts, these small, squishy 3D-printers can self-replicate. While the silkworms were removed from the pavilion before they could transform into moths, once they metamorphose, those 6,500 grubs could produce 1.5 million more, which in turn could construct 250 additional pavilions.
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Ellipses Collide in Mathematically-Inspired Installation at the University of Oregon

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SubDivided provides a unifying element in Fenton Hall's three-story atrium, tying each level together visually.

In December 2012, the University of Oregon completed a renovation of Fenton Hall (1904), which has been home to the mathematics department for the past 35 years. In addition to sprucing up the interior and upgrading the mechanical systems, the institution hosted an open competition for the design of an installation to hang in the building’s atrium. Out of roughly 200 initial applicants three were shortlisted, and of those the university selected a design by Atlanta-based architect Vokan Alkanoglu. Composed of 550 uniquely shaped aluminum sheets, the 14-foot-high by 10-foot-long by 4 ½-foot-wide sculptural form is derived from the curving geometry created by several opposed ellipses—a nod to the discipline that calls Fenton Hall home. “We wanted to create something that would be visible on all three floors of the atrium to connect the levels and create flow in the space,” said Alkanoglu. “We also wanted to have an interior to the piece, so that you could see inside and outside, to give it a real sense of three dimensionality.”
  • Fabricators MAC Industries
  • Architect Volkan Alkanoglu
  • Location Eugene, OR
  • Date of Completion  December 2012
  • Material   .04-inch-thick pre-painted aluminum
  • Process  Rhino, Grasshopper, CNC routing, riveting
Alkanoglu and his associate Matthew Au modeled the piece, named SubDivided, in Rhino, using algorithms to define the curved surfaces that link each open ellipse. In addition to giving the sculpture a sense of depth, the curves also add to its structural integrity. Alkanoglu tessellated the surface with perforations to keep it lightweight and increase its visual permeability. Once he had defined the form, Alkangolu transferred it into Grasshopper, breaking the model down into 550 unique sections. Each piece was given tabs with holes in order to make connections with rivets, and assigned an identification number. Alkanoglu transferred this subdivided version of SubDivided as .dxf files to local fabricator, MAC Industries. MAC fed the files into its CNC routing machines, which cut the profiles out of .04 aluminum sheets pre-painted in two colors—the University wanted the sculpture to have a duotone appearance, matte gray on the outside and white on the inside. Once cut, the sections were given a non-scratch coating and labeled with stickers. To assemble these puzzle pieces, Alkanoglu recruited three architecture students from U of O. In a shop, the team set about the work of peeling off the non-scratch coating, rolling the sections to give them the requisite curve, and connecting them with rivets. The team assembled the piece in four chunks, which they then transported to the site, where a scaffold had been erected in the atrium. The four larger pieces were connected atop the scaffold and the entire assembly was attached to the ceiling with three narrow-gauge galvanized cables crimped to steel plates inside the sculpture. According to the calculations of the project’s structural engineer, Buro Happold, SubDivided weighs a mere 56 pounds. “It’s kind of like a research project," said Alkanoglu. "A small prototype that could move into a larger building, maybe a facade, or an atrium for a bigger building, which hopefully will come in the future.”
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Utile Makes a Splash With Digitally Fabricated Pavilion in Boston

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The Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion roof channels rainwater for irrigation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Jump on a ferry in Downtown Boston and in twenty minutes, you’ll arrive at the Boston Harbor Islands, an archipelago of 34 islands dotting Boston Harbor managed by the National Park Service. To entice city-dwellers to make the trip, Boston-based Utile Architecture + Planning has designed a composite steel and concrete pavilion with a digitally fabricated roof for the National Park Service and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance to provide travel information and history about the Islands and a shady respite atop the highway-capping Rose Kennedy Greenway. Two thin overlapping concrete canopy slabs supported by delicate steel beams provide a sculptural shelter. Utile digitally designed the $4.2 million Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion using Rhino to respond to the surrounding cityscape and serve as a playful rainwater-harvesting system to irrigate the Greenway’s landscape.
  • Fabricators S+F Concrete, C.W. Keller, Malay Laser, Turner Special Projects
  • Architect Utile Architecture + Planning
  • Location Boston
  • Date of Completion  June 2011
  • Material   Reinforced concrete, steel
  • Process  Rhino, laser-cutting, CAD-CAM bending
Initially working with a fountain consultant, the design team experimented with the shape of the roof deformation that guides rainwater to a catch basin. The roof’s unique shape was determined using digital models and by rolling BB’s over physical models to gauge how water would eventually behave on the surface. “We realized in modeling the pavilion that the water would ‘prefer’ to follow the same axis through both pavilion roofs,” Tim Love, principal at Utile, said. “Turning the curve would have created unintended consequences in the flow of the water.” The final shape propels water from the symmetric top roof, onto the asymmetrical lower roof, gaining speed as the concrete pinches together and funneling down to what the architects described as a “giant scupper,” finally cascading into a sculptural catch basin on the ground designed to create different splash patterns depending on how hard it's raining. “The roof pinches in as closely as possible to control the flow of the water,” Chris Genter, project architect at Utile, said. The arc of the water had to be precise enough to land in the catch basin, “like water pouring from the spout of a pitcher.” Supporting the two 40-foot by 60-foot roofs, a series of steel beams form a sort of Gothic tracery, splitting in half to reduce the effective span of the concrete and minimizing the overall depth of the slab by requiring less rebar. The roof slabs vary in thickness from three-and-a-half inches at the perimeter to five-and-a-half inches at the center. “We were always interested in making the primary material concrete with as slim a profile as possible,” Love said. “The concrete structure enters into discourse with the heritage of concrete architecture in Boston and responds to the heroic modernism of Boston City Hall.” “The steel beams offered enough repetition that they began to look like contour lines,” Love said. “They allow you to more easily read the curve of the slab.” Each metal band, what Genter described as a sort of steel “fettucini,” was fabricated directly from the digital model, first laser cut and then bent to the correct shape using CAD-CAM technology. “You typically don’t see these kind of geometries in permanent structures,” Love said. “There was a lucky convergence of high ambitions all around.” In generating the digital model for the pavilion, the team had to ensure that the data was clear for the multiple fabricators involved in the process. “The curves had to form a describable surface,” Love said. “The model and its geometries had to be translatable to different fabrication processes. The model for the project literally became the model for fabrication.” Working with two separate materials built from the same digital model presented real world challenges when fitting the two together. “The project required more craft in the field than we initially thought,” Genter said. Each steel beam is made up of four pieces welded together and required more room for error in fabrication. On site, the wooden concrete formwork was subtly changed to adapt to small variations in the shape of the steel. “The answer was to get fabricators on board who can get our model translated into the final product,” Love said, explaining that working with contractors on digitally fabricated projects can be a learning experience for everyone involved. “There were a lot of subspecialties working together.” Concrete contractor S+F Concrete brought millworker C.W. Keller on board to create the elaborate wooden mold for the concrete slab. For most of the surface, deformed plywood was used, but as the curve approached its spout, a custom mold was required. “The curve was beyond the tolerance of plywood,” Love said. “Every single piece of plywood in the formwork was pre-engineered before it arrived.” Once on site, the individual pieces were fit together like a puzzle.
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Tex-Fab Competition Proposals Harness “Research Through Fabrication”

While a winner has not yet been selected, Tex-Fab’s new APPLIED: Research Through Fabrication competition has already produced interesting results as four semi-finalists emerge. The competition solicited proposals that best displayed "research through computational fabrication." The four proposals selected in the first round of adjudication address acoustics, structure, construction, material, and surface effects, each using on digital modeling and fabrication techniques. The proposals, described in more detail below, will be shown at ACADIA 2012 this October at the Synthetic Digital Ecologies conference, hosted at the California College of the Arts. Spin Valence Emily Baker With a repeated pattern of shapes cut into a single sheet of steel, a steel panel can become two planes joined by repeated triangulating struts. Each shape is individually spun out of the original panel and then rejoined to surrounding units. The completed construction is structurally sound, light diffusing, and inexpensive to construct.
FAB POD Jane Burry and Nicholas Williams FAB POD explores the potential of hyperbolic surfaces to create an acoustically controlled space that can be constructed and deconstructed in different settings. The hyperboloid surface forms allow the designers to experiment with sound diffusion, less understood than sound absorption and reverberation. Each piece of the structure is conceived using digital modeling materialized using gypsum plaster and laser-cut formwork.
Cast Thicket Christine Yogiaman and Ken Tracy Cast Thicket is both a form of construction and a finished design product. To produce finished forms of reinforced concrete, construction begins with the design of prefabricated steel struts, which are positioned using a system of interlocking laser-cut plates. Formwork is also prefabricated and attached to the joints. Plastic formwork is then detached and reattached as the structure grows upwards. The final product has the possibility for infinite variation.
Latent Methods Eli Allen The Latent Methods project focuses on exploring the possibilities of an existing material—in this case, shingles. The process begins with exploration of possible forms before they are "rationalization and articulation of...digital models through parametric tools." Computer models then determine the process of shingle size and placement, giving a designer the ability to create Gehry-esque forms coated in a traditional material. More information on these proposals, the competition, and other entries can be found at Tex-Fab's website. Click on a thumbnail below to launch the slideshow.
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Play It Forward: A Temporary Interactive Installation

Part of this year's Digital Capital Week, the project turns games into donations for a charitable cause.

When Washington, D.C.-area designers Hiroshi Jacobs, Jonathan Grinham, and Kash Bennett were asked to create an installation for Digital Capital Week’s 24-Hour City Project, which seeks to improve urban environments with creative technology, they knew it had to be more than just something to look at. The team created Play It Forward, an interactive, motion-sensing display that donates a small amount of money to charity each time someone plays with it. Unveiled at the technology festival’s closing party at Arena Stage and now part of an exhibit at D.C.’s Project 4 Gallery, the installation demonstrates how advanced parametric design and digital fabrication methods can work together to encourage interaction and promote social change in the process.
  • Fabricators Hiroshi Jacobs, Jonathan Grinham, Kash Bennett, Jasmina Lopez, Sam Mrozinski, Alana Thurmond, Chris Weimann
  • Designers Hiroshi Jacobs, Jonathan Grinham, Kash Bennett
  • Location Washington, D.C.
  • Status Complete
  • Materials White polyethylene on MDF, Arduino microcontroller, photoelectric sensors, LEDs
  • Process Parametric design, digital fabrication, custom interactive sensor-driven technology
Once the design trio won 24-Hour's $1,000 grant to design their project, they had only a month to create it. Budget and time aside, the project's main challenge was modeling the entire interactive system by hand. “We had to integrate a number of systems into the fabrication,” said Jacobs. “It's the surface itself, the connections between units, and also the connections from the individual units to the structure. It's a little different from a project where you have one material and one connection system.” The piece was fabricated with the help of fabrication equipment and students from the School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America. Its exterior of white polyethylene was chosen for cost, and the project's units were sized so that two could be CNC-cut from a single 11-by-17-inch sheet. But the installation's exterior, a white, wavelike form that lights up in red, belies its complicated innards: 432 hardware connections, 72 photoelectric sensors, 288 LEDs, and more than 1,000 feet of electrical wiring, all assembled to create a new form of social interaction. Sensors located across the piece allow installation visitors to play a simple game in which LEDs provide visual feedback. For the initial presentation, each game resulted in between $1 and $4 being donated to KaBOOM!, a charity that builds playgrounds in needy neighborhoods. The piece generates a digital readout of how much money has been donated, while players are prompted to share their experience via social networks. This physical-digital interaction is made possible with an Arduino microcontroller working in conjunction with the sensors and LEDs. The designers describe the system in a project statement:
As the game is played, the microcontroller transmits game data via processing to an internet data hosting website called Pachube, which in turn is accessed by a custom-developed website that displayed statistics about the most-recent game. Players access the website on their smart phones by scanning an individualized QR code that is displayed on an Apple iPad near the installation.
For the next two weeks, the piece will be installed at Project 4 as part of an exhibition related to digital fabrication that will also include some of Catholic University's work for the Solar Decathlon. The designers see Play It Forward as part of a larger goal to influence architecture. “The most interesting thing to us is not any one of those individual technologies, but using them together,” said Jacobs. “I think this could happen on a bigger scale in a more permanent way.”
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Haresh Lalvani’s Morphing Fruit Platter 1D Series 300

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The designer’s most recent collaboration with Milgo/Bufkin explores mass customization

Architect-morphologist Haresh Lalvani is continuing his longtime relationship with Brooklyn-based fabricator Milgo/Bufkin with the Morphing Fruit Platter 1D Series 300, which was unveiled at this year’s Design Miami as part of the Moss exhibit, Mass Customization of Emergent Designs. The 100 platters presented at Moss represent the designer’s latest thoughts about the intersection of mathematics and manufacturing based on a process he calls Lautomation.
  • Fabricator Milgo/Bufkin
  • Designer Haresh Lalvani
  • Location New York, New York
  • Status In progress
  • Material Steel
  • Process Morphological genome, Lautomation, laser-cutting
Derived from the term “Length Automation,” Lautomation is a new way to automate patterns for mass-produced, mass-customized shapes. The process generates infinite patterns with an automatic, 1-D equation based on length. When applied to any selected length, Lalvani’s algorithm creates a series of patterns, each an evolution of the previous one ad infinitum. The Fruit Platters’ “length” of 300 refers to 300 points on a continuous curve, giving each plate 300 perforations. As in his other work, Lalvani said the process represents a “morphological genome” because the size, shape, and position of each platter’s holes are different. Made with powder-coated, laser-cut steel, Milgo/Bufkin has produced only 100 of the 12-inch-diameter platters. Each one is numbered according to its position in the morphological sequence, which created 1,000 patterns in all. And just in time for the holidays: It’s not too late to give loved ones their own piece of newly-formed design DNA (for $700). According to the Moss web site, “The 900 platters from this series which have not yet been realized can be ordered, with no surcharge. This is to reinforce the new reality of digital production: the elimination of 'economy of scale', whereby making 'more' of something costs less. This historic paradigm—one of the tenets of the Industrial Revolution—will no longer be a truth.” Each piece is accompanied by a 12-minute animation of all 1,000 patterns created in the series.