Make Architecture



#3 – Waterjet Part 1

A Mis-Matched Family of Test-Utensils

This week was a little bit of a fail, in the sense that nothing I expected to happen happened. BUT, there were a lot of things to learn with the new tool of the waterjet, as well as the continued use of the acrylic, lanyard, and the heat gun.

First off, I was a little too ambitious in putting together my initial cut sheet. I had thought that I would continue with the glasses-frames project, as well as try something new with silverware.

First Cutsheet – WAY too many small parts, and very little room to manoeuvre.

cutsheet1 – too full!

So, after bringing this file into OMAX software to figure out the paths and the side that the waterjet would travel on, we took it to the OMAX Make software, which drives the machine. As soon as I started cutting, the machine read that the cut sequence would take over 45 minutes!

Setting Up Path Traverses

Also, once it started cutting, we realized that most of my little horseshoe-shaped pieces (supposed to be the clips that hold the glasses’ arms to the fronts) were not just falling through the bed, but some of them were twisting back in their position and jamming into the waterjet head! Yipes!

Cutting the small parts on the “bricks”

Eventually, the little pieces were becoming such a problem and the clock was ticking, so we decided to call it quits on this cutting session and make a cleaner file to try again later.

Only a couple of the objects I’d intended to cut actually came out – no glasses!

SO, deciding to make do with what I’d gotten (at least until the next cutting appointment could be scheduled), I tried some tests on the pieces I’d cut. I also cut some more of the missing silverware pieces in acrylic on the lasercutter, just to mock up what I thought my ideas might look like.

For the silverware, I followed a similar trace-and-modify approach that I used last week with the glasses.

I found the silverware I used as a child online and traced its profile.

Then I came up with a few different modifications to test out, including multi-part utensils. I thought I might be able to use melted lanyard to fuse an acrylic piece to an aluminum one.

I “sewed” together matching acrylic and aluminum pieces
Shaping a fork on another.

To create some curvature in the utensils, I used a heat gun on the acrylic and then laid the pieces over their “prototypes.” I had thought that since the aluminum was quite soft, I might be able to beat it into shape with a hammer. This was not the case.

Hammering didn’t produce any more curvature than surface indentations.
Family Portrait

I produced a little dysfunctional family of alumicrylicware at the end, and learned quite a few things in the process:

1. beware of the heat gun! ESPECIALLY when heating up metal. I burnt the finish off of my desk in the shape of a spoon.

2. melted acrylic is very unpredictable. To carry these shaping ideas out fully, I would need to have a very formal set of jigs set up rather than trying to free-form the plastic.

3. leave a lot of room around your cutsheet on the waterjet, preferably enough so that you can leave the clamps in place throughout the entire cutting session. Since some of the small holes were cut before the profiles of the shapes around them, and the sheet shifted during the cutting process, I found that a lot of times, these pieces did not match up according to plan.

The cutsheets I plan to use in the future are MUCH simpler than the intial ones. In addition, I broke down my project into just glasses and just silverware, since it’s too complicated to cut everything together at the same time. Also, it’s not that necessary to have all your files together, since you zero-out the waterjet each time you use it. Cutting files separately might actually save material in the long run.

the glasses profiles – V2


Utensil Cutsheet – Three Designs

cutsheet2 utensils

I still have some of the few round clips that came out in the first round of cutting, so I’m going to experiment with those for the hinge closures here. The circular hinge may need yet another pass, however.

Stay tuned…


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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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