Posts tagged with "laser cutting":

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Snøhetta and Architexas Make Leaves of Steel

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A Dallas pavilion's exposed structure demanded extremely tight tolerances of Irving, Texas–based fabricator, CT&S.

Ten years ago, the Dallas Parks & Recreation Department launched a revitalization project to update 39 decrepit pavilions throughout its park system. One of them—which was to be designed by the New York office of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta in partnership with local practice Architexas—sat at the mouth of a meadow lined by old pecan and oak trees on the southern side of College Park. Speaking about the site, Snøhetta director Elaine Molinar said, “You're aware you've left the surrounding neighborhood and entered a more rural setting.” This is the feeling that the team wished to encourage in its design for a new pavilion.
  • Fabricator CT&S
  • Designers Snøhetta, Architexas
  • Location Dallas
  • Date of Completion July 2013
  • Material 1/4-inch plate steel, bolts, green paint, anti-graffiti coating
  • Process Rhino, AutoCAD, water jet cutting, laser cutting, bolting, welding
The team looked to the surrounding foliage for inspiration. The pavilion super structure is made up of miter-joined steel wide flange sections that form continuous columns and rafters. The members feature a variety of angles that, in assembly, create a torqued and folded profile based loosely on shapes found in the park’s tree canopy. The roof and two sides are enclosed with 1/4-inch plate steel bolted to the insides of the structural sections. To meet the city's visibility requirements for safety, the sides were water jet cut in abstracted leaf shapes of varying sizes and densities, resembling dappled sunlight falling through leaves. Though the pavilion is straightforward in design, its execution was a rewarding challenge for the architects and the fabricator. “The form was influenced by the shape of the tree canopies around,” explained John Allender, principal at Architexas. Starting with an orthogonal form in Rhino, the architects pushed the angles to resemble the natural surrounding shapes. The exposed beams and columns on the structure's exterior magnify the twisted form. Since the canted framework is fully exposed, there was zero tolerance for error. “The unforgiving design is a difficult one to build,” said Bruce Witter of Irving, Texas–based fabricator CT&S. “These were tight tolerances, far beyond AWS standards,” he added. After translating the Rhino file to AutoCAD, CT&S laser cut mockups to test the angles. Following a workshop at the fabrication studio, the team took close to 12 weeks to craft the beams and panels, prepare bolt holes, paint the steel, and affix a special waterproof sheet to the ceiling panel. Installing the pavilion over a concrete slab also required considerable preparation and time. During the course of nearly a dozen site visits by designers at Architexas, the fabricators erected the columns and roof beams using 3D scans to ensure the fidelity of the final product. According to Witter, the canted angles injected errors into the digital layout, so hard templates were the most reliable method for a successful installation. “If you don't have the fixed angle, you won't get the reading right,” said Witter. With the heavily collaborative nature of the design, Allender said working with a local fabricator—CT&S' facilities are located 15 miles from the job site—was essential to the success of the project. “There's no way this project could have been done by someone out of town,” he said.
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PROJECTiONE’s Engrained Parametrics

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Designers in Indianapolis fabricate a graphic, splintered design.

Indiana-based design/build studio PROJECTiONE employs a multidisciplinary approach to its work that runs the gamut from digital to analog fabrication. Founders Adam Buente and Kyle Perry craftily bridged that gap with Synthetic Grain, a set piece for the Young & Laramore advertising agency of Indianapolis that explores the natural knotting and grain of lumber. The team used parametric software to create a graphic, 3D pattern system for an architectural screen that mimics natural variations of wood. Working in Rhino, parallel lines—or the wood grain—were drawn and points were defined within. Each point served as a knot, around which the lines would gently curve. “Our only input for this project were those points in 3D space,” said Perry. To ready the design for fabrication, curves and cut holes for the plywood backing were generated in Grasshopper.
  • Fabricators PROJECTiONE
  • Designers PROJECTiONE
  • Location Indianapolis
  • Date of Completion February 2013
  • Material polystyrene, plywood, wood stain, steel, screws
  • Process Rhino, Grasshopper, laser cutting, friction fitting, screwing
Two hundred and eighty slats were laser cut from 4- by 8-foot sheets of polystyrene, including exacted “teeth” along the back of each fin that would slip into negative space scored into plywood backing. Because the screen was decorative, industrial plastics were a suitable project solution. “We needed something flexible so that the fins wouldn’t snap on us, and the pure white color really helped,” said Perry. Laser cutting also produced smooth edges that didn’t require any finishing. Though most of the tolerances were worked out digitally, the designers tested tolerances of the laser cutter with several mockups, and also determined how much of a bend could be applied before the plastic snapped. In addition to physical testing, line angles were also explored within Grasshopper. Since each fin was bent to the plastic’s inherent tolerance, enough tension was created to friction joint each fin into the wood. Eight plywood backing panels were also laser cut with varying curved edges to best optimize the curved patterns of the adjacent fins. A steel frame was fabricated to support the freestanding, 12-foot-long installation that reached 3-1/2 feet in height at a depth of 4 inches. The application for this installation of Synthetic Grain was predetermined, but Perry and Buente were not shortsighted in their plans for the future of the design. “We thought we’d make the Grasshopper definition variable,” explained Perry. “We tried to make it flexible enough to adjust ‘this’ and output ‘that’ quickly, so it could be scaled for a building typology.” At a grander scale, a building screen or parking garage facade could be fashioned from metals or thicker plastics. Retail storefronts could benefit from the visual transparency of the faux bois rhythms, or hospitality projects could adopt it as an alternative to a porous surface.
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Fallen Angels Rescued Parametrically

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Classically trained sculptors breath new life into four 20-foot angels with the help of Rhino.

When Old Structures Engineering engaged Boston Valley Terra Cotta in the restoration of the 1896 vintage Beaux-Arts building at 150 Nassau Street in New York—one of the city’s original steel frame structures—the four decorative angelic figures, or seraphs, that adorned the corners of the uppermost story were in serious decay. “Up close, they were in an appalling state,” said Andrew Evans, engineering project manager. “The biggest issue we had with the angels was understanding what happened with the originals.” The seraphs were carved from stone by Spanish immigrant Ferdinand Miranda in 1895 and had suffered years of exposure and improper maintenance. By the time the facade was up for rehabilitation, the angels were haphazardly strapped to the building with steel bands and supported with bricks. Their state was such that repairs would not suffice and Boston Valley’s artisans began the task of recreating the 20-foot-tall Amazonian figures.
  • Fabricators Boston Valley Terra Cotta
  • Designer Ferdinand Miranda
  • Location Buffalo, New York
  • Date of Completion April 2013
  • Material glazed terra cotta, plywood
  • Process Rhino, Zbrush, Agisoft Photoscan, laser cutting, hand sculpting
It was the company’s first foray into parametric modeling. Like Dorothy stepping from sepia tone into Technicolor, the sculptors at Boston Valley Terra Cotta proclaimed, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” when they fabricated the 20-foot angels using parametric modeling and lasers. “I have a history in classical sculpture, so when this came in front of me, it was sink or swim,” said Mike Fritz, master sculptor at the Buffalo, New York–based ceramics company. “We went to Oz and everything changed after that.” Henceforth, the newly constructed terra cotta angels came to be known as “Dorothy.” The most decrepit angel was photographed onsite and then disassembled for shipment to Buffalo. In Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s ceramics studio, the images were converted with photogrammetry software and transferred to Rhino to build a digital model. The model was divided into sections, such as an arm, a face, several feathers of a wing, etc. Then a laser cutter was used to cut plywood profiles that matched each section.   “Those [plywood] profiles of her face or her arms were packed with clay to realize the full forms,” said Mitchell Bring, the project manager for Boston Valley Terra Cotta. Each of Dorothy’s parts were hand-finished by Boston Valley’s staff of 30 sculptors. Once the clay had set, negative molds were made of each section to form the parts for Dorothy’s identical sisters. The finished sections, each of which weighs upward of 500 pounds, were shipped back to 150 Nassau Street in pieces and assembled onsite with mortared joints. Since completing the project, the digitally enhanced sculpture methods have been refined and wholly embraced by Boston Valley’s team of artisans. “Through this work flow, we’re able to get a little closer to our material earlier in the process,” Fritz said. “If we went without the new tools, it would have been six weeks of work in total. But even with our substantial learning curve the modeling and the build on the shop floor only took two-and-a-half weeks total.”
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Vlad Tenu Gets Down to the Bare Minimum

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MC/2* is composed of .04-thick laser-cut polypropylene and aluminum rivets. Each component is flexible, but when assembled the surface becomes rigid.

The triangular MC/2* is the latest iteration of London-based Romanian architect Vlad Tenu’s Minimal Complexities Series. With this prototype, he continues to explore the idea of creating minimal surface geometries from modular components—a thread that has been present throughout much of his work. This time, he has pushed the boundaries even further by whittling down the components. The undulating structure, made of translucent laser-cut polypropylene and aluminum rivets, was first unveiled hanging from the ceiling of the Open House event for Digital Shoreditch Festival 2012. It was then exhibited months later, at the International Architecture and Design Showcase at the London Architecture Festival 2012. This prototype follows a natural progression in this ongoing series, which gained recognition when Tenu was named the winner of the second annual Tex-Fab Repeat Digital Fabrication Competition for his Minimal Complexity structure in 2011.
  • Fabricator  Surface
  • Architect  Vlad Tenu
  • Location  London, UK
  • Date of Completion  2012
  • Material  .04-inch-thick polypropylene, aluminum rivets
  • Process  Processing, laser cutting, hand riveting
For this project, Tenu created an algorithm within software program Processing that dictates basic geometries on minimal surfaces. “The method that is behind this project is having a very flexible number of particles added and removed from the system that constantly updates itself into a minimal geometry, and that is what the algorithm originally refers to,” said Tenu. Tenu fabricated Minimal Complexity from 16 modular variants. For MC/2*, he reduced that number to just two different components. Over the course of two afternoons, Tenu and colleagues from Surface assembled the 500 components into 250 modular regions. The entire structure, which can stand independently or be suspended from the ceiling, spans 10 feet in length, 7 feet in width, and 5 feet in height. While the individual pieces are light and malleable, made of .04-inch-thick laser-cut polypropylene, “Structurally the piece is very rigid and quite strong compared to the material which is very flexible. It can easily be self-supporting,” said Tenu. “I am always trying to integrate ideas of very pragmatic applications,” said Tenu. “With these prototypes, the idea is to test systems and learn from the special properties of them.”
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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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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.
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IwamotoScott Architecture: Bookshelf Screen Wall

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Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott, principals at IwamotoScott Architecture first established a relationship with Obscura Digital, a digital media company, three years ago in order to collaborate on a new hemispheric theater encased in a geodesic dome in Dubai. While the project was scuttled by the recession, the two firms stayed in touch, and when Obscura acquired new office space in a 1940s-era warehouse in an up-and-coming San Francisco neighborhood, they again called on IwamotoScott to design it, and even invited the architects to move into their new space. Working with a tight budget, IwamotoScott injected digitally fabricated details that would give focus and add drama to the large industrial space. A black-box conference room that Scott describes as bringing “shrink-wrap to seismic bracing” is perched on the edge of a second-floor mezzanine while a 32-foot laser-cut screen wall comprised of cells that appear to collapse into fluid scales sequesters the architect’s space within the digital media company’s headquarters.
  • Fabricators IwamotoScott Architects
  • Architect IwamotoScott Architecture
  • Location San Francisco, California
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Powder-coated sheet metal
  • Process Digital modeling, laser-cutting, folding
Doubling as a bookshelf in IwamotoScott’s space, the screen wall deforms slightly in response to the mass of a geodesic dome in the building’s atrium housing one of Obscura’s signature theaters. “The pixilated, curving vocabulary of the screen wall projected off the spherical form of the dome,” said Scott. Laser-cut vertical fins of 22-gauge sheet metal are held in tension by channels anchored to the floor and ceiling, which in turn support 186 unique modules, each fabricated from a digital model produced by IwamotoScott. Perforations were laser-cut into sheets of 24-gauge sheet metal and folded to create boxes. The white-powder-coated boxes are mounted to the light gray fins with small Allen machine screws. Scott said the subtle difference in color enhances the feeling of shadow boxes. Beginning with a row of orthogonally-stacked modules, each of the 31 vertical rows of boxes radiates in a perspectival array to control the wall’s sense of porosity and filter light. “We tweaked the digital model to adjust for views,” Scott said. While facing the wall in one location might reveal a flood of light from windows inside IwamotoScott’s offices, from other locations, the wall appears completely opaque. Scott said Obscura Digital’s office own space is still a work in progress. Future plans include covering Obscura’s geodesic dome with a modulated skin over its metal skeleton. Scott said the process will likely involve digital fabrication similar to the screen wall, with perforated edges to create a system of dynamic folds.