The makeLab is not just a place for cutting out squares. It is a place that allows students to understand the characteristics of materials and construction methodologies. Through many iterations of our final project we found that there is a distinct difference between manipulating material and shaping material. In the past we used the machines to cut out predetermined shapes to fit into a predetermined form, but this time we set out to explore the opportunities within a given material…. Manipulating material allows common characteristics to be set aside for new possibilities.
For this project, we started by cutting out rapid prototypes using the laser cutter. The small size of the models allowed us to identify which materials could be manipulated the best. For example, one-eighth inch basswood didn’t respond as well as one-eighth inch thick Baltic Birch plywood. An advantage of using the laser cutter was that it allowed for different cut patterns to be tested easily. We were able to find cut patterns that worked well very quickly and allowed us to move towards full scale versions on the CNC. We used the same ratio of cut depth to cut spacing for the most successful laser cut prototypes. This allowed the full scale versions to be successful on the first attempt.
Is plywood just for sheathing? Seeing an eight foot sheet of three-quarter inch plywood ripple like water, compress by 20%, stretch to 200%, twist 180 degrees, and roll up into a six inch cylinder exceeded our expectations to say the least. The characteristics of this material have changed so dramatically that we need to be reminded of the fact that is still solid plywood.