Make Architecture



Assignment 8: Motion

For the week on motion I wanted to make a drawing machine of some sort that utilizes the motion of gears. I was inspired by the spirographFile:Spirograph.jpg

but I wanted to make something more random as well as something customizable. What I ended up with is a set of gears, one of which has paper on it and one has a runner that is attached to an arm with a writing utensil on it. There are two accessory gears with pegs where you can attach rubber bands to the runner to affect its position on the radius of the gear as it turns. The result is very random spiral-like drawings.


I used the Geargen plugin for Rhino to design the gears that would run the drawing machine. I designed it to be cut from MDF on the shop bot, so the details are very large, meaning the module is very low. To make it easy, I made each gear have 3 times the number of teeth as the diameter, and all the diameters are in whole numbers. I made each gear a different diameter so that there wouldn’t be a lot of repetition in the spirals. Here is the basic design.

Because it was to be cut on the shop bot I needed to fillet all of the inside corners of the gears, which took forever. Also I optimized the file for a 1/4 inch end-mill by making all of the axles 1/4 inch diameter.

I intentionally did not design in a motor because of the variable loads due to the rubber bands, and I didn’t know how much strain would be on it. Also there is definitely something cool about turning it yourself and seeing the spirals emerge.


The process went perfectly, here are pictures of the cutting path and the machine at work.

While putting it together I found that there was a little tab left on each gear that I had to sand off for them to mesh right, also the gears were fabricated slightly too big so the axle holes don’t really line up – I needed to expand the holes in the base to 5/16 for the gears to spin right.

For the runner and arm I used a bolt through the gear with a loose nut, then laser cut the arm from acrylic with a hole specially fitted for a pencil.


This is where the problems start. For one, the pencil does not have enough downward pressure to make good marks, even with a rubber band holding it down. So I ran the arm through the laser cutter again to make a sharpie-sized hole so that isn’t a problem anymore. The other problem is that the nuts on the runner self tighten, meaning the arm does not always stay on the paper after a few rotations.


The nice thing about this machine is that you can change around the rubber bands, attach one, two, or no bands to the runner, switch around the rubber band lengths and strengths and get different designs. It requires some playing around with because some combinations cause it to lock up, but overall the concept is solid.


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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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