Make Architecture



7 – Creating Molds: the lightbulb project

The lightbulb project was a joint effort with Sarah Hirschman.  I will be covering the mold making portion of our testing and she will cover the casting portion.

our molds:

All of our different casts

Our goal was to cast and mold a standard household lightbulb in a variety of materials to test different techniques, results, and effects.  Eventually, these could be strung together with some real bulbs to create a Super Chandelier Object.


  • Oomoo 30
  • Oomoo 25
  • Vacuum Forming


  • I’ll walk through the wins and fails for each of these materials.  Procedures were pretty different so though we learned something with each attempt, we still managed to jeopardize the outcome at every turn!

Oomoo 30 Mold Making

This product was super easy to use and our most successful mold maker…  mix equal parts of 2 low-toxic materials and wala.  here we put bulbs into a bowl to make a half cast (which we could then use in the vacuum former) and we submerged a bulb fully inside of a Solo party cup.

learned here: the bulbs wanted to float up out of the rubber casting material so we had to muscle them down + stay there for 75minutes to cure.  We hot-glued sticks as barriers and also used these sticks to create channels for later pouring our cast into the mold

getting the bulbs out required no release agent, but did require some elbow grease and careful thinking about how to split the mold open.  we did vertical halves and horizonal halves on different molds.

learned here: coating your object in vaseline first does help getting it out later.

learned here: Solo cups are an ideal vessel for creating molds: cheap, destructable, and do not bond with Oomoo 30.  Once the mold was made, it was easy to put it back into a cup for support while doing the next casting even if we’d cut the mold in half.  Solo cup as Superstructure.

finally we tried making a ‘drip mold’ around a bulb.  with 2 separate coats it turned out thick and holds its shape well… no molding results yet.

Vacuum Forming

Next we took the half-bulb mold with a real lightbulb in it to be vacuum formed.  Our Plan: to make 2 identical vacuum formed halves that we could cast into once we clamped them together…  we were apprehensive about the vacuum actually exploding the bulb in the process but went ahead anyways.

we then had to cut the important part of our mold out of the plastic that formed around the bowl and support structure we used.  no exploding lights!  one exciting dremel used to cut the plastic.

learned here: having to cut the form away from your cast object is a pain!  plan accordingly.  even if you use 1/16″ thick plastic.

learned here: we cast 3 attempts, none of them came out very tightly along the edge of the bulb (where it met the flat surface).  it did however take well to the threads at the base of the bulb.  (none of them were grrrrreat though). this process seems to take a lot of practice and intuition to get good results.

here’s the way we intended to clamp the two halves together:

Oomoo 25 Molding

learned here: this product bonds to lightbulbs!  if you don’t use a release agent, do not use the 25…

Results – to be covered in Sarah Hirschman’s post

All of our different cast bulb products


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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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