Make Architecture



Guru Page: Molding Machine_Sarah

So molding machines, as we explored them, come in all different shapes and sizes. Essentially, a molding machine is some kind of flexible formwork that can be reused, preferable with easy alterations or changes to their projected products.

It’s not easy to make a formwork that will be easy to control and from which you can remove your different casting products over and over again, but we did learn some lessons along the way, compiled here.

1. Air Pressure _ Alex: when using air pressure as your variable shape-changer (as in an inflatable formwork), it is essential that you use a rugged and durable fabric surface into which the air is pumped. If you’re already having trouble keeping the air tightly inside your formwork before the casting begins, you can expect some trouble.

For casting concrete (or Rockite, really) on top of an inflatable formwork, make sure that the weight of the material poured will not produce total collapse of the ‘molding machine’ itself.

2. Bounding Box _ Alex and Asli: In most cases, it was clear that a rigid bounding box or other vessel was necessary to keep all of your molding components together. It seemed like the most successful projects, which produced the most consistent and variable results, benefited from the use of a master structure or armature to hold all of their pieces together. See Alefiyah’s machine for a good example of this rigid structure.

Having a bounding box or structure also helps you define just what variables you’re operating on in the molding machine process. In Alefiyah’s project, it is clear what variables are at stake, like the diameter of the rings that loop around the spandex tube, and the amount of rockite poured into the mold. In other projects, there were too many variables to really compare between iterations using the same machine.

3. Chemistry: It is, above all, necessary to mix your casting compound correctly. This last portion of a long process is essential because it controls the performance of your final product. Costanza had some trouble with his casting of Rockite, and it was supected that perhaps his mix was not consistent – especially with something like rockite, it’s important that there are ZERO powder chunks in your final pour, something that is difficult to ensure in a large batch.

For Rockite mixing in small batches, the most successful method of mixing I’ve found is combining the powder and water in an old drink bottle (2 liters is big enough for most of the projects we’ve been working on) and shake it really thoroughly. When you’re mixing the ingredients in an open container like a bucket, it’s very likely that some powder will stick along the edges, and if you don’t scrape well, it will end up on the surface of your cast – gross!

4. Hard an Soft: Much like last week, it was again important to remember to cast hard materials in soft molds, and vice versa. If one part of the equation doesn’t have some flexibility, it can be very difficult to separate your materials. Now, this is not always the case, and certainly we can think of some examples where hard things are cast in hard molds, but for the most part, flexible molds like those made with OOMOO 30 and OOMOO 25 have had the most success.

5. Other Mold Materials: Not all mold materials are created equal. OOMOO 30 and 25 are very flexible and set up quickly. Polyurethane molds like the Reoflex 30 that Gerhard and I tried to use have different properties, like being more structurally stable once they’re set, and being only slightly flexible – a nice difference from the solid or the totally flexible molds available elsewhere. BUT Polyurethane molds stick to EVERYTHING. When I discussed my project (see Party Mold page for Sarah), with the guy who works at Reynolds Supply warehouse, he said that even though I treated my dishes with a release agent, they were probably still too porous (some of them being stoneware) to fully get sealed, and thus were permanently fused to the Reoflex. Gross!

6. More Waterjet: Juliet learned some important lessons about preparing files for the waterjet cutter. Please see her page for an excellent run-through of those details. In essence: if you’re having trouble importing curves into OMAX Layout from AutoCAD, try exporting your linework as a 2004 Polyline .dxf (as opposed to an R12, which is supposed to be the most universal). There are a number of other ways you could try to troubleshoot this problem, but after testing a lot of different output configurations, Juliet found this one most reliable.

7. Vacuforming: Finally, the vacuformer cannot read your mind. It doesn’t know where you want it to go when you’re molding with it, and it can’t suck air into already-closed places, like the insides of mugs. Alefiyah found this out with the unfortunate consequence of sealing a mug into a sheet of plastic.

TIP: Nick let us in on a tip for mold releasing – especially when using concrete or some other large-volume substance, a good mold-release is a couple drops of DAWN or PALMOLIVE dishsoap in the mold before casting. This seems like a really good tip, since the soap can be washed off of any non-porous surface once it’s cast – I can imagine that this would be really useful in cleaning out the mold as well, since you don’t want any residue of your last pour on your mold once you’re done.

TIP: only use products that clearly state on the packaging “Safe for Indoor Use.” You don’t want to annoy your studio-mates or create any potential health hazards that you’re not prepared to deal with. Once again, resin is scary and powerful, and use it only with the utmost caution and preparation.


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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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