Parametric Honeycomb



As part of the semester-long seminar course “Parametric Constructions”, students explored various parametric design methods and digital fabrication techniques through a series of full scale constructs produced in groups of two or three students while working in a collaborative effort with local industry partners. One project that resulted from the seminar explorations consisted of a panelized system of laser cut aluminum and vacuum formed acrylic infill panels, entitled the Parametric Honeycomb.
The success of this project was contingent on the collaborative effort between the two student designers and a local metal fabricator, Midwest Metals. Through out the design process, digital files were produced based on the requirements set by the manufacturer that were used to directly control the laser cutter. The production of full-scale prototypes was essential to the development of this project—three full-scale study models were made to test and explore connection methods for the various system components. Parametric computer models allowed the visualization of the complete system but the tectonics of the full-scale mock-ups provided much more useful feedback pertaining to joinery and assembly time. The assembly of the mock-ups illuminated opportunities for refinement of the design based on cost and time. The initial design iterations for Parametric Honeycomb relied on mechanical fasteners to hold the assembly together. These solutions quickly proved too costly in laser machining time or ultimately failed when scaled up using appropriate materials. Feedback from the manufacturer on laser piercing operation times greatly informed the remainder of the project development. A simple spreadsheet helped the team optimize the number of cuts (and resulting piercing operations) during the negotiation of cutting time versus budget.
The final design features a tab and slot system that allows the entire system to be assembled without any mechanical fasteners. The legs for the system interlock with the leg on the bottom secured to the ring through the tab and slot that locks the entire system together through simple friction. This method of joining components cut fabrication time and assembly time for the final full-scale prototype. The exchange between students and the industry partner was completely digital—no paper drawings were exchanged between the two parties. The efficient nesting of each component was critical in managing the cost of the project. In fact, the manufacturer combined other parallel projects in a nesting solution to minimize manufacturing waste and “off-cuts.”
The use of precise digital data to describe the shapes of each component (and the path of the laser cutter) saved time and eliminated errors. The final optimized solution would not have been possible without the information feedback loops created from the explorations utilizing full-scale study models and the input from the fabricator.

Parametric Honeycomb Team:
Jamie Owens, Brain Pace

Kevin Klinger, Branko Kolarevic

The Parametric Honeycomb was generously supported by our Industry Partner, Midwest Metals, with $1000 in materials and fabrication time.



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