Make Architecture





Key laser strengths

  • Very fast production with thin, non-reflective materials such as sheet steel
  • Accuracy to ±0.001″ (±0.025 mm) or better in thin material

Key precision abrasive waterjet strengths

  • Can produce parts up to 12″ (30 cm) thick in virtually any material while holding tolerances on the order of ±0.003″ to ±0.005″ (±0.08 to ±0.1 mm) for parts 2″ (5 cm) thick or less
  • Can machine reflective, conductive and thicker materials such as stainless steel and aluminum, copper and brass
  • Cuts without melting, providing a smooth uniform surface with very little burr or dross
  • No Heat Affected Zone (HAZ), which may eliminate the need for a secondary operation to remove HAZ. This also makes conventional secondary operations, such as reaming or tapping, easier to perform.
  • No noxious gas or vapors produced during cutting
  • Simple and rapid programming and set up for short-run parts

The key reasons laser shops and laser users buy a precision abrasivejet is it typically costs 1/3 the capital price of a laser and can work a much wider variety of materials, particularly aluminum and stainless steel over 1/2 inch (13 mm) thick. A shop that previously farmed out work to a laser house can afford to buy an abrasivejet and perform the work in-house, saving money and improving scheduling and flexibility. This also means a laser house can afford to purchase a precision abrasivejet solely to work in thicker aluminum and stainless steel and in material that a laser can not cut (such as composites, ceramics, titanium, etc).

WIRE EDM Electric discharge machining (EDM)

Comparing Precision Waterjet Machining to Wire EDM

Key Wire EDM strengths

  • Extremely precise parts are possible [±0.0001″ (±0.025mm)]
  • Very thick parts [over 12″ (30 cm)] can be made
  • Intentional taper can be put into a part for die clearance and other uses

Key Precision Waterjet Cutting strengths

  • Up to five to ten times faster depending on part thickness
  • No Heat Affected Zone (HAZ), so no need for secondary operations to remove the HAZ or additional heat-treating to compensate for the process
  • Works well with non-conductive materials (such as glass, stone, plastic) as well as conductive materials
  • Can pierce material directly without the need for a pre-drilled starter hole
  • Can produce large parts at reasonable costs
  • Simple and rapid programming and set up with minimal fixturing

The key reasons that wire EDM shops buy a precision abrasivejet are for speed and to work with non-conductive materials.


Key mill or machining center strengths

  • A well-understood familiar technology
  • Able to make three-dimensional parts
  • Rapid production if set up and programmed for long-run parts

Key precision abrasive waterjet strengths

  • Very rapid programming and set up does not require a highly trained operator
  • Very low cutting loads mean fixturing is easier, and intricate and delicate parts can be machined
  • One cutting tool performs all machining functions in all materials, so there is no need to purchase and calibrate multiple cutting tools
  • Large cutting envelope compared to a machining center of comparable price
  • Minimal burr compared to conventional machining
  • Environmentally friendly; no oil-soaked chips and minimal scrap


Key punch press strengths

  • A well-understood familiar technology
  • Rapid production with thin material once the machine is properly programmed and set up
  • Relatively low capital cost (although tooling costs can add up)

Key precision abrasivejet strengths

  • Very rapid programming and set up for short run parts
  • No distortion of closely spaced parts
  • Minimal burr
  • Ability to work in a wide range of thickness, from sheet metal to plate
  • Ability to work in a very wide range of materials
  • No special tooling required for unusual shapes or profiles

The key reason punch press owners buy a precision abrasivejet is to eliminate all the set up involved in doing short runs and prototype parts and to expand the range of materials and thicknesses they can process.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


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.


%d bloggers like this: