Weaving Facades out of Clay | Jared Friedman | Via
Low-cost 3-D printers that produce tchotchkes made of melted plastic wouldn’t satisfy Friedman’s architectural ambitions, so his team decided to build their own machine. “We were tired of seeing the same things over and over being 3-D printed within the design community,” he says. “The scale was always very small due to the size of standard 3-D printing machines and everything relies on a ‘layer upon layer’ process.”
The team appropriated a robotic arm from a factory floor, bolted a giant clay-filled syringe to it, and employed a printing process developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Design Robotics Group. He created CAD files that specified paths for the robot to follow and as it progressed clay was squeezed like toothpaste from the metallic cylinder onto an irregular surface forming a two-foot square panel. Half-inch thick clay coils were woven, braided, and built-up in patterns on the panel, but despite their futuristic pedigree they were actually inspired by much older manufacturing processes. “Tools such as the industrial robot can allow for designers to revisit techniques such as weaving, and leverage the abilities granted by the robot to produce new and unique products,” says Friedman. After the pattern was completed the panel’s edges were trimmed, they were fired in a kiln, and assembled on a steel scaffold.