Make Architecture



#2: LaserPress Glasses

This week I decided to use the laser cut/ press-fit assignment in conjunction with an idea that came up during class last week, and something very close to my heart: eyewear.

The idea behind this project is that someone could buy a cheap pair of glasses (I got mine at CVS for $7.99) and customize them to be cooler (and changeable) with a very simple kit of parts. For example, perhaps you want to look like a serious professor in the morning, but have plans for the evening that you’d like to look a little bit hipper for. Well, just lasercut a couple different styles in your favorite materials and switch ’em out as you see fit. Because everything in the preliminary kit is lasercut from sheet materials, the whole ordeal lies flat and is easily packable.

My process is followed by an additional experimental customization that I undertook because I was curious. The material tests I did in this phase may end up being useful throughout the semester, so stay tuned.

I looked at the people around me and the glasses they wear to begin.

Frames are scanned and traced in Illustrator.

I chose my favorites and settled on four styles to experiment with.

I bought a cheap pair of eyeglasses at CVS.

Then I removed the lenses and scanned them to get the right profile for my new prototypes.

After adjusting my frame designs to accommodate the new lens shape in each one, I lasercut the profiles in both basswood and yellow acrylic. I tried out four different press-fit designs with these as well, since I wasn't sure which would hold best in each material.

Then I assembled all the different tests to see which worked best.

Prada-profile glasses modified with a new "Press-Fit" logo.

This tenon joint fit snugly thanks to the friction in the basswood as well as it's thickness (3/32"). It didn't work as well in the smoother and slightly beveled edge of the acrylic.

The "Lisa" style with the same joint configuration. This one didn't work as well because of the placement of the joint and the way the glasses lie on the face. Too much torque on the frame arm for this to stay as secure as I would have liked.

This acrylic option involved a double-pronged pin holding a more traditional press-fit joint together. It should have been more secure for requiring three parts.

The most successful option: The "Nader" frame style featuring a tenon joint, and holding the CVS lenses securely. They work!


I liked the simplicity of the wooden frames, but beyond the press-fit joint, I decided to modify one of the acrylic frames with another material – nylon string, or “gimp,” as well as some shaping of the acrylic itself. This frame style was actually the most secure, but I didn’t like the plastic as much as the wood overall because it was a bit heavier and looked more like real glasses, rather than strangely wooden ones.

I wove some gimp together because I was curious what would happen to the pattern and structure if heat were introduced.

I applied a household iron to the woven gimp to only moderate results - some melting, but mostly the material just lost some of its elasticity. I tried the heat gun on a tangle of gimp as well. This was much more effective - about 45 seconds under 1000 degrees of direct heat made it melt together permanently.

I knew the heat gun would affect the acrylic as well, but I wanted to see the relationship between the gimp and the acrylic. I wrapped the string around a pair of frames and heated the whole thing up for about a minute and a half until it was almost jello-like in consistency.

I shaped the frames by pressing them (still really hot) onto the bridge of my nose. Be careful if you do this! I put a towel between me and the plastic, but I should probably have made a formwork, since this was rather uncomfortable.

I used the heat gun to warm the gimp up again to squeeze the lenses into their correct fit position.

These ones work too, but are much more comfortable than the wooden ones since they actually sit on the bridge of my nose.

This joint is very secure because it uses a semi-circle to effectively lock into the pin-hole. As long as you're standing upright, the joint can't really wiggle apart.

The dwg file for the frame profiles is included below. The lens shape is taken from those CVS glasses, but that can be modified for any lens profile, though be careful because lenses are never flat, even on their exterior ridge because they’re… lenses. So be sure to use a thick enough material to catch the majority of the lens edge. Enjoy!


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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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