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TPM Conference Room

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On March 15th the makeLab visited The Product Manufactory  (TPM) in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to discuss the design/build of a conference room.  The room provided a formidable challenge; it needed to accommodate 6 people, be sound attenuating, movable within TPM’s warehouse space, and have two large sliding doors on the short sides.  We intended to fabricate it off-site at the makeLab so it needed to be designed in components, or chunks, that could be assembled for testing, disassembled for transport and reassembled on-site.  To make things more interesting all of this had to be done on a very tight budget and in 8 weeks.

Design
When designing, fabricating and partially assembling off-site the first step is to determine the maximum size of the chunk.  Due to the limited budget, we opted for the largest box truck we could rent.  A series of diagrams were produced to determine the best configurations.  Ultimately, we opted to assemble the structure on-site and to assemble the large, but lightweight, panels off-site.  We did not have a fork-lift or other mid to lightweight lifting equipment, so all chunks needed to be lifted by the team (six people).

diagram: Barbara Grossi

Pairing the two primary design limits, mobility and sound attenuation, we devised a stacked component system that consists of Baltic birch plywood for structure and a high density felt commonly used in the automotive industry for noise dampening.  The layered felt and plywood was bound together by staggered horizontal rods allowing for compression nuts for on-site “tuning.”  The plywood that was layered into the side panels was mostly created using the scrap from the cutting of the larger structural “chunks.” Milled into each structural band is a “wrench pocket” that allowed us to adjust the tension from both the inside and outside of the room.

bolts

The sliding doors on the short ends have a lightweight aluminum panel on the exterior and marker board and pinup board on the inside.  Both materials kept the door as light as possible while preventing it from warping or deflecting. An interlocking dovetail sliding mechanism allows both doors slide into LVL tracks.  The doors can be pulled out to create a work space on the exterior of the conference room or closed for private conferences.

light

To take advantage of the existing warehouse lighting, the felt was partially replaced on the ceiling with acrylic that was seated in a milled channel within the structure.  The ceiling was held back from the edge of the wall so that light could wash the wall from above.

Fabrication
On May 1st, 15 days prior to completion, we fabricated the first component.   Each chunk had  two rings of structure composed of 7 sheets of plywood.  In total, 53 sheets were cut to create the structure, floor, siding panels, and entry.  The arrangement of each chunk was carefully configured to maximize the material and to minimize waste.  The structure was CNC’d, while a jig was designed for cutting and perforating the felt. A mallet and dye were used to cut each piece of felt to length in order for the felt to be integrated and layered with threaded horizontal tension rods.

cut

In the second week of May the the team began to assemble the chunks in a makeshift space outside the makeLab (later referred to as “tent city”).  Each chunk was built on its side through stacking the felt and plywood in an order dictated by the numbering and lettering designation on each milled piece. As each chunk was completed it was tilted up into place and checked for tolerance and alignment.

tentcity

On May 12th the chunks were assembled and tested, the doors where milled and assembled (mostly) with the arrival of the box truck at the makeLab.  The team disassembled the chunks into components for transport to Illinois.

On-site Assembly
On May 13th the Team arrived in Champaign-Urbana to begin a long 4 day assembly.  The process that was tested at the makeLab was repeated: each chunk was assembled on its side and tilted into place.  This time, the wall and ceiling panels where mostly assembled and came together faster, but the finality of the assembly required a higher level of precision than the off-site testing.  Each chunk was bolted to the next and the end chunks where modified and fitted with the sliding doors.  On the final all-nighter push the entry was completed and the room was pushed into its final location in the warehouse.

Lessons
There was a focus from the beginning that lessons from past makeLab projects carried forward into the design of the TPM conference room.  The word “tolerance” was used quite often during the design and many of the projects details serve as examples of past challenges.   The TPM project will now provide new lessons for many future projects.  We realize that creating a lightweight, rolling conference room for six people is difficult especially with a limited budget and time constraints.  We accomplished the majority of the goals we set out to, and the conference room rolls on the warehouse floor smoother than expected.  We even moved it so we could vacuum underneath after completing assembly.  The felt does quite well at sound attenuation and the light from the acrylic above is beautiful.  The conference room’s size seems appropriate and the table fits nicely.  The materials, colors and proportions are a nice complement to TPM’s existing work area.  The huge sliding doors move in the track with persistence.  Pushing and pulling the doors easily with one finger was a design intent, but it was a construction complication that was not realized. This is a future design challenge that we will attempt to resolve.

Natalie Haddad | Jim Stevens | Ergys Hoxha | Eric Rito | Vespa | Brent Dekryger | Joe Donelko

The Team
On the morning of May 14th I woke (only after a few hours of sleep) to the TODAY show where they were reporting on Generation Y.  With more smugness than I would like, they implied that the Y’s are mostly self-centered and lazy.  I found this ironic as I went to join my team of Y’s to do another 18+ hour day of selfless work.  The project would not have been possible without any of the six members that came to Illinois or that worked in the courtyard under a tent in Michigan spring that consisted of: heat, rain, wind and yes – sleet.  There were bruises, pulled muscles, stitches to a finger, and one big hit to a shin, but we all survived, learned and are proud of what we did.

TPM was also on the design team.  Normally, we have to educate our clients on the design process, but in this project the client fully understood design with all of its challenges and possibilities.

See the full Gallery

makeLab would like to thank the following businesses for their donations:
One Crane Source
Party Jacks

makeLab step X step

Over the past academic year the makeLab has worked to document and catalogue a step X step reference for common digital fabrication processes.  With the help of students James Cole, Erika Zajac and Nicholas Green the new section is now online.  This initial release serves as a starting point and more processes will build overtime.

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makeLab step X step was partially funded by the Architecture Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) incentive grant.

Folding

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In 2012 the makeLab  developed a chair for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Affleck House using a milling technique that results in plywood that can be rolled and bent.  Building off this knowledge students: Mike DiGiovanni, Greg Wood, Ghantous El-Tayar developed the next iteration of the chair.

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The team began with looking at the opportunities inherent to the material.  It was identified that the wood was behaving like “fabric” in that it bends and twists to conform to the metal frame.  This behavior was in conflict to the materials thickness of 5/8″ given there is no need for the additional thickness to preform.  Reducing the material to 3/8″ was found to be optimal in that it didn’t fail when milled (as 1/4″ did) but was still rigid enough to withstand the weight of the sitter.

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Further examination also showed that if wood could bend beyond 90 degrees the chair could potentially fold.  By chamfering the slots in the bending pattern the team was able to achieve the +90 degree fold.  This result lead the team into a path of research to discover the optimal way to create a locking hinge that is low-cost, light weight and congruent with the stainless steel tube frame. Refinement of all of the components resulted in a wood folding chair, a chair more suitable to a formal setting unlike most of its folding chair counterparts.

photo credits:  Lisa Franzoni and Joe Donelko

makeLab International Collaboration

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The makeLab team recently completed an international design competition for  the New Central Mosque of Pristina. This was a huge step for the team since it involved communicating with multiple overseas teams. The makeLab participated with POLIS University of Albania and an Italian firm, IT3, along with Italian architect, Antonello Stella. Although the teams were assigned specific responsibilities, the design of the mosque was discussed by all members and the conceptual approach took weeks of continuous communication with all groups. The makeLab began initial design concepts two months ago and generated iterations for the Italian firm to utilize during the design process. The makeLab team kept in contact with both teams through weekly video chats. The frequent communication allowed the group to maintain a strong relationship with the firm despite the challenge of working long distance.

Early in the design process, the design team set out to incorporate a screen that both responded to sunlight and highlighted the religious aspect of the mosque. The team began by designing small scale iterations of the screen in order to determine what pattern and material would be feasible for the design. The screen’s pattern was determined through analysis of the sunlight and existing site context. Renderings of the structure with the screen were produced in order to generate discussions about the screen and how it related to its counterparts. Once the design phase was complete, IT3 sent a digital model to the makelab team, who then constructed a physical scaled model.  In just three days the makelab team milled out and constructed the polystyrene model. The 1” = 500’ model was fabricated using the makeLab’s CNC to cut sheets of styrene. Upon completion, the model was shipped to Albania for the final submission along with renderings and drawings completed by IT3 and POLIS University.

This overseas design challenge was a healthy challenge for the makeLab. The three teams’ rigor and dedication proved to be vital to the success of the project. Regardless of the distance between the design teams, all were able to work in a cohesive manner to produce a strong and comprehensive design for the competition. The success of the project and the ability for the process to remain fluid and efficient opens new doors to the possibility of more international projects to come.

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Collaborators:
3TI_LAB SRLMETROPOLIS3TI PROGETTI ITALIA INGEGNERIA INTEGRATA SPA, MAKELAB, ANTONELLO STELLA, LORIS ROSSI, JAMES STEVENS, PAOLO ROSSI (RM), ENDRIT MARKU, FRANCA FRANCESCUCCI, SKENDER PALLOSHI, ARBER SHALA, FLORINDO RICCIUTI , REZART STRUGA, LORIN CEKREZI, NATALIE HADDAD, BRENT DEKRYGER, JOE DONELKO, ERGYS HOXHA, ENIS PAKASHITICA, NJOMEZA KRASNIQI

Forming | Jig

SUMMARY:

  • A Jig is a custom-made tool used to control the shape or location of another tool. In this example the jig is used to form and bend the piece of wood into a unique shape.

MATERIALS:

  • Desired Rhino/PartWorks File
  • Plywood
  • Water/Steam

TOOLS:

cncmachine_iconscrewdriver_iconscrews_iconclamp_icon

  • CNC Machine
  • Screw Driver
  • Screws
  • Clamps

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:

icon_earplugs icon_glasses icon_maskgloves_icon

  • Earplugs
  • Safety Glasses
  • Dust Mask
  • Gloves

 

CLEAN UP:

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  • Power blast dust from machine
  • Use dustpan and mop to clean up floor

READY TO CONTINUE?
Arrow_BackToMenu Arrow_YesContinue

CONTINUE ON TO STEPxSTEP PROCESS

Forming | Double Curved Mold

SUMMARY:

  • Double Curved Molds allow for a fully considered object. By being able to control both sides, the architect is able to fully conceive their three-demential concept. Use caution, like the double sided mill, this process is also a tricky one.

MATERIALS:

  • Rockite
  • Plexiglass
  • Sawdust
  • Vaseline

TOOLS:

cncmachine_iconscrewdriver_iconscrews_iconstirstick_iconbucket_icon

  • CNC Machine
  • Screw Driver
  • Screws
  • Stir Stick
  • Bucket

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:

icon_glassesicon_earplugsicon_earplugs

  • Safety Glasses
  • Dust Mask
  • Earplugs

 CLEAN UP:

dustpanmop_icon

  • Use dustpan and mop to clean up floor

READY TO CONTINUE?
Arrow_BackToMenu Arrow_YesContinue

CONTINUE ON TO STEPxSTEP PROCESS

Forming | Vacuum Mold

SUMMARY:

  • Vacuum Molds allows almost anything to become a mold. Typically, shapes are milled out first, however the vacuum can be made to surround almost anything making your casting possibilities endless.

MATERIALS:

  • Wood (for milling, or other found object for casting)
  • Polystyrene
  • Rockite

TOOLS:

cncmachine_icon palmsander_iconbucket_iconstirstick_icon

  • CNC machine
  • Vacuum Former
  • Sander
  • Bucket
  • Stir Stick

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:

icon_glasses icon_maskgloves_icon

  • Safety Glasses
  • Dust Mask
  • Gloves

 CLEAN UP:

dustpanmop_icon

  • Use dustpan and mop to clean up floor

READY TO CONTINUE?
Arrow_BackToMenu Arrow_YesContinue

CONTINUE ON TO STEPxSTEP PROCESS

Forming | Pressed Plexi Glass

SUMMARY:

  • Pressed Plexi Glass is formed by placing a heated piece of polysterne between two molds. These molds can either be found or milled on the CNC machine. This is a quick process that can be repeated as needed.

MATERIALS:

  • Polystyrene
  • mold (possibly milled earlier)

TOOLS:

cncmachine_iconheatgun_iconpalmsander_icon

  • CNC Machine
  • Heat Gun
  • Power Sander

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:

icon_glassesgloves_iconicon_earplugsicon_mask

  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Ear Plugs
  • Dust Mask

CLEAN UP:

dustpanmop_icondustvacuum_icon

  • Clean up around sander when finished
  • Vacuum and spray down the CNC room after using

READY TO CONTINUE?
Arrow_BackToMenu Arrow_YesContinue

CONTINUE ON TO STEPxSTEP PROCESS

Joining | Linear Wave

SUMMERY:

  • This process allows for a great allotment of improvisation. For the example displayed here the team generated and mapped this form digitally beforehand, however upon creation allowed for slight variation and improvements along the way. Though wood and rope were the selected materials for our display process, don’t let that limit you in exploring new avenues and building upon this concept.

MATERIALS:

  • Wood
  • Eye Bolt
  • Plastic Expander
  • Rope

TOOLS:

heatgun_iconhammer_icon

  • Heat Gun
  • Hammer

SAFETY EQUIPMENT:

gloves_icon

  • Gloves

CLEAN UP:

dustpanmop_icon

  • Use dustpan and mop to clean up floor

READY TO CONTINUE?
Arrow_BackToMenu Arrow_YesContinue

CONTINUE ON TO STEPxSTEP PROCESS