CNC clay

I used a pattern developed for another project, as a test file for CNC routing in clay, as a proof of concept.

Future improvements would be quickly attained by getting a sharper bit, and fine tuning the Mill speed.



More to come.

July 7, 2011
Featured, general, Research, Work In Progress
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Pattern Making 2

I decided to look at cuttlefish, and consider the patterns that make up there skin surface, and the skin surface of many animals. Two scientists already reviewed and have previously described these shapes. The two men are Gray Scott and Turing.

(Gray-scott Java Applet)

(Turing Java applet)

Example – turing model at set reaction time. (Below)

The reaction pattern itself can be recreated and describe color patterns on giraffes, other fish, and zebras as well.

Ultimately the formulas were to complex to examine in a short time frame, so I decided to examine it at a smaller scale.

I designed a component that would link with itself.


Then I made it read the location of an attractor point.

I defined the distance to a random point, and used that to determine the size of the opening in the model.

The opening would then create a 1-0, black white scale, and across the surface, create a gradiant that would mimic the surface of an animal.

Unfortunately, complex definitions in grasshopper require a deeper understanding of parameter trees than I currently have. For the short term, I left the connector system out, and examined the patterning algorythm.


After I overcame several difficulties in Grasshopper I began cutting the material.



July 7, 2011
Featured, general, Research, Work In Progress
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Can you laser cut Ceramics

I love laser cutters. I love parametric and algorithmic design. I love working with clay. Can I combine all three?

Ceramic craft is an ancient art form that is still practiced in parts of the world as it was several thousand years ago. It also has been adopted in the industrial era for even greater quantities of consumer goods. It is versatile, durable, and cheap. It is for these reasons that I decided to try to laser cut the material.

Would the aggregate in the clay redirect the laser, keeping it from cutting?  would moisture content affect performance?

I ran several tests as I attempted to find the ideal path for completing this project.



It failed.  greater moisture content seems to allow to the laser to cut deeper into the clay, but ultimately clay density is the main issue. After trying several attempts, each test was only able to cut about 1/16″ down, regardless of changes.

I want this medium to join me in the information age.My next step is to mount our CNC mill with an ‘ancient’ tool- a needle tool.  While the laser I have access to cannot cut deep enough into the clay to be useful, the needle tool will.

Can I get the needle tool sharp enough to resist picking up the clay?
will I be able to ‘unload’ the clay from a canvas sheet (which will protect the thermwood’s mdf)?


June 29, 2011
Featured, general, Research, Theory, Work In Progress
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User Interaction Design

I am Currently Pursuing a research topic I have been interested in for some time.

There are so many products and designed objects available in the market today, but I don’t like any of them. None of the ones that cost less than $4,000 anyway. What if I could be empowered to make my own things, instead of what someone else chose for me?
Currently there is a disruptive change beginning to take shape in the landscape of interior and object design. As access to CNC machinery becomes more and more available, there is an increase in ability to produce mass customized furnishings.
Examples of this are here:

The Purpose of this research isto explore the possibilities of creating computationally designed and parameter controlled objects that are based on user-generated concepts. These concepts and models for further study will be refined for potential future exploration.

With this method of Inquiry I intend to use Rhino and Grasshopper to create parameters that will allow another unskilled user to make modify and customize a (lamp) based on several parameters. The focus will be on designing a system that can empower the user to create their own physical content.

Frequent updates will be made as I pursue this inquiry.

June 29, 2011
Featured, general, Work In Progress
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s the art and craft of the machine

“ The machine these reformers protested, because of the sort of luxury which is born of greed had usurped it and made of it a terrible engine of enslavement, deluging the civilized world with a murderous ubiquity.”

What does FLW think the machine era created? Murderous Ubiquity. The dearth and death of art. Some art is still made for the wealthy, and other art is contrived and distorted for profit (FLW is looking at you, Starry Night Mug) in the thousands. Today, perhaps the machine of manufacturing and the industrial age is even more murderous and even more ubiquity. Since 1901, the concept of designed obsolescence was actually praised by designers such that the junk they made allowed them to produce more junk. Designers became slaves to not only the sameness of all things, but the worthlessness of all things.

Some of the best designers of the time have rejected the Machine, preferring the Arts and Crafts movement, and Frank praises them for the search of the soul of design. He repetitively praises to the values of the counter-movement. Still, FLW isn’t a luddite. Frank believes that they have protected the beauty of the craft, but they fail to see the beauty that has been unlocked by the machine into the true nature of available materials. I find this interesting because it highlights the biggest issue I have had with counter movements in architecture. The machine age was just dawning and there was a new horizon of possibilities. At the same time, this was the dawn of an era. The machine was hideous and unrefined, and hadn’t reached the height of its potential. The designers of the arts and Crafts movement held on to what they were doing because their art celebrated the golden age of an art form even though that golden age had past.

But ultimately, the responsibility is not the Machines: it’s the machinist’s. The problem with the early industrial era was that machine tools weren’t harnessed, they were exploited. Instead of making new works of art, most of what this new technological sophistication created were underwhelming. The same is done today, when buildings in Revit are designed not to the bleeding edge sustainable practices, but designed with standard wall types, standard component windows, standard roofs, and by seriously substandard human beings(“architects”). This is the same fight FLW saw, and it is the same one we must fight.

Perhaps now in our era the machine has been freed from itself, and now it can come to begin to make its own art.

June 27, 2011
Featured, general, Research
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