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What is Digital Fabrication and Design? (Part II)

What is Digital Fabrication and Design?

In our last post we talked a little bit about what Digital Fabrication and Design is, or might be. This time we’re going to look at a specific example which should make us question what Digital Fabrication and Design should encompass.

I talked to a colleague of mine at UWM, a Grad Student named Broc Toft, about how he used digital tools to design something that he eventually made by hand. He described this as “Digitally Crafting to Manually Making” and provided me with some images and text to describe his process.

Broc's Design
The model was created in Rhino.

Broc's Design
I then used “Unroll Developable Srf” function to get surfaces. (I then printed it out on paper to use as a template.)

Broc's Design
This is the MDF cut using the templates. (Note: The MDF was manually cut. If I had used a CNC machine to cut it I would have had to modeled the chamfer to deal with the angles.)

Broc's Design
I then assembled and polyurethaned the model.

Broc's Design
In coddle form, ready for plaster.

Broc's Design
After the plaster was poured.

Broc's Design
The finished plaster mold.

Broc's Design
The ceramic positive that came out of mold.

Broc's Design
The end result; 21 of them used with projection mapping. (You can also see a video of the installation.)

So there’s a lot of things done by hand, and while “Digital Fabrication” wasn’t used, “Digital Design” was, at least to create the original form, and to assist in creating a template. One of the interesting aspects is that if Broc had been making a number of these forms using MDF or some other easily machinable material, using a CNC machine to create them would make more sense, but with just one needed to used to create a mold, perhaps making it by hand was the right option. Broc also noted that someone much more skilled in Digital Fabrication may have been able to CNC the whole thing and avoided doing things by hand. (My own thought is, do what works to get things done!)

While writing this post I also came across this Instructable titled Digital Fabrication By Hand, which demonstrates the same idea.

(Previously: Part I)

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What is Digital Fabrication and Design?

What is Digital Fabrication and Design?

I’m currently enrolled in an MFA program at UWM with a focus on Digital Fabrication and Design. So, you may be asking “What exactly is Digital Fabrication and Design?” I’ve got my own ideas of what it is, but I’m also going to explore what others might think it is, or not even realize it is.

Let’s start with checking in on the Wikipedia definition for Digital modeling and fabrication:

Digital modeling and fabrication is a process that joins design with the Construction / Production through the use of 3D modeling software and additive and subtractive manufacturing processes. These tools allow designers to produce digital materiality, which is something greater than an image on screen, and actually tests the accuracy of the software and computer lines.

The OpenDesk project has a nice short definition “Digital fabrication is a type of manufacturing process where the machine used is controlled by a computer.” There is again the reference to CNC machines, 3D printers, and laser cutters.

Both of these focus on the process and the tools used. They mention machines controlled by computers. There is some mention of design, but no mention of art. (We’ll get to that part later.)

OK, we’ve got some definitions now, and I’m sure you’ve got your own idea of what digital fabrication and design entails. Next time we’ll look at a specific example from an artist.

Stay Tuned!