Make Architecture



02. Laser Cut: Reflection_BOX

The goal of this project is to make a snap together construction kit using the Universal Laser Cutter. I chose to make an acrylic box / pencil holder with different images etched on to each of the four surfaces. The acrylic pieces are held together by the finger joint method.
Make Time:
  • 3 hours – Design / Laser Cut Template File / Image Manipulation
  • 2 hours – Laser Cutting
  • 1 hour – Assembly
Tools & Components:
  • Universal Laser Cutter (Bed size 18″ x 32″)
  • 1 sheet of 1/8″ acrylic sheet
  • Laser Cut File – vector line & raster image
  • DESIGN. The acrylic box / pencil holder is designed to be 4″ h x 4″ w x 4″ d. Draw notches 1/4″ w x 1/8″ d (depth of material) on each of the edges. Since the box does not have a lid, do not notch the top edge. Remember to offset notches on the receiving edge. Also, since the laser beam melts small amount of acrylic when cutting the material, make adjustments to notches to ensure a tight fit.
  • IMAGE. To incorporate an image into the box, I chose to try two different methods – rasterize image and Live Trace in Adobe Illustrator.
To rasterize an image, simply convert a color photo into black and white by going to Image > Mode > Gray Scale. Then adjust the brightness / contrast to get a gradient from black to white.
To convert vector lines from a raster image, place black and white image into Adobe Illustrator file. Select the image and click on Live Trace button on the menu. Adjust tracing option, set threshold to 190 and blur to 0.2 for smoother lines and better results. Select Live Paint Bucket to adjust image. Select all line work and edit stroke to 0.25 pt. Export line work to dwg.
Adobe have good documentation on how to convert raster image to vector lines
Adobe video on using Live Trace

Universal Laser Cutter
  • LASER CUT. It is usually important to experiment with laser power / speed. The easiest way is to draw several lines, assign each a color that will work with the universal setting (black, red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta), and vary the speed. Recommendation for 1/8″ plexi is 95 / 6 for cutting and 50 / 20 for scoring (or etching).
Before laser cutting, remove top side of the paper protecting the acylic.
  • ASSEMBLY. The vector cut acrylic box takes a little longer to assemble due to the removal of paper backing. Align the notches and fit all the pieces together.

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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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