Best to build it . . . NOW!

Can you be an architect without having built anything with your own hands?  You can, but I don’t think it is a good idea.  While working towards becoming an architect, I am appreciating the time spent on my project in the makeLab.  I have learned how to 3-dimensionally model my project using Rhinoceros (a nurbs modeling software) with a plug-in called Grasshopper.  I was then able to take those models, physically print them on the 3D printer and build them on the ShopBot CNC as scaled down prototypes and as a full-scale installation.  This is a process I have never experienced until now.


Modeling with Grasshopper: By lofting curves and connecting points along them I was able to develop the form of the Arch.

Modeling with Rhinoceros: After making the Grasshopper geometry into Rhino geometry I used Rhino to break down the arch and explore how it could be built.

Prototypes on the 3D printer: The 3D printer was an amazing tool to use.  In just a few hours I had a physical model in my hand that I was trying to visualize using Rhino.  I was able to photograph the model and then sketch directly on them to further develop ideas on how to construct the arch at a larger scale.

Prototypes on the CNC: When I started prototyping on the CNC I tried double milling to create individual beams that would be combined to make the arch.  After that idea was exhausted, I revisited the sketches and 3D print and came up with another way to construct the arch.  This method involved layers that interlocked with the outer most support; the skewer.  This worked!

Full Scale on the CNC: At full scale I had to rethink the arch again.  I developed a method of milling components that would create large X beams (similar to the layers used in the prototype).  By laying out all the components on the computer in Rhino I was able to use as little plywood as possible.  I placed each part within one bit width of each other and tacked each part down with screws.  The result is a set of RhinoCAM files that can be run on nine sheets of plywood to build one arch. Here’s hoping everything will come together as planned.

By Ellen Rotter

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