Archived entries for Designing for Digital Fabrication

Inrō Stereolithography

During the Edo period (1603–1868) Japanese travelers could be found wearing a small carrying case known as inrō. Literally meaning “seal basket” (印籠), inrō were used to store important items like medicine or one’s personal seal for stamping documents. Production of these utilitarian objects of lacquer, wood, or ivory developed into the trade of highly skilled craftsman.

The combination of scale, utility, design, and craftsmanship makes inrō compelling artifacts of Japanese mobility. That they also served to transport small, valuable goods gives the object a kind of special presence along a journey. I thought it would be interesting to create my own version of inrō, drawing from the formal properties of crystal, which also has its own talismanic quality.

I designed the object in CAD software to be printed three dimensionally at NYU’s Advanced Media Studio. This additive manufacturing process involves a computer-controlled laser beam that hardens a liquid polymer as the structure is built up in layers. Here is a wireframe view of the inrō.

When printing is complete, the piece is fragile and needs to be infiltrated with a special epoxy. After infiltrate is applied it can be handled as normal. Two versions of this intial prototype were made. The first is bone white—essentially as it came from the printer—and the second is painted with black enamel.

Applying Black Enamel

What would you keep inside an inrō?

Inryō in Hand

Manscan: A Collaborative Support Structure

Manscan is a collaborative chair project developed in tandem with ITP classmate Greg Borenstein. We set out to fabricate a support structure that playfully references the act of sitting and the form of a chair simultaneously. In doing so, we’re collaborating both physically and intellectually on a project that explores a new approach to CNC milling. A three-dimensional Kinect scan of Greg and me in a back-to-back position provided the data necessary to begin the multi-stage preparation for fabrication.

Translating the point cloud generated with the Kinect to machine code readable by a CNC router occupied the bulk of our project time. This involved bringing the original scan into MeshLab to clean up the image and create solid surfaces. The file was then imported into Vectorworks in order to make additional adjustments and export the project in a format that could be opened by the NC programming software, MasterCam. Once tool paths were defined in MasterCam, we finally had the G-code to operate the router.

Our first prototype was completed at a small scale in blue foam. The finish is rough but the execution was successful. Charting a path from image data to physical object took more turns than expected and, all the while, we were still familiarizing ourselves with the CNC router. I anticipate that, from here, more straightforward applications of the CNC will feel like a breeze. Which is good because I’m enthusiastic about the ways in which digital fabrication opens new channels between media and form—or, in this case, foam.

In Triangles

These images document a pair of algorithmic portraits materialized in plexiglass with a laser cutter. Each image consists of three layers: two in which the portrait is cut out of black sheets of plexi and one clear sheet, uncut save for the perimeter and screw holes, in between them. This layering adds rigidity and depth to each piece, which together form a diptych. My wife, Sachiko, and I are the subjects of this first iteration.

Sketch for a Physical Image

This is a sketch of an algorithmic portrait for digital fabrication. It’s based on a webcam mirror image that draws triangles of increasing size based on brightness. The Processing sketch and working Vectorworks file are also linked.

Kodak Ektagraphic III A Projector

A Kodak Ektagraphic slide projector was the subject of my first CAD drawing, done in Vectorworks. PDF and VWX files are also available to view.

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