Theodore Kimble

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Write to Theodore Kimble at mail@theodorekimble.com

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Paperboard and Rubber Bands

This Microcosm project asked us to study and develop a mass customized enclosure system. The enclosure system required at least two distinct sub-systems, each of which was to be parametrically designed and rapid prototyped using laser-cutting technology. From the beginning, I desired a fluid system with no sharp edge or corner conditions.

With this constraint, I then chose to populate a digital surface with components based on the surface's u- and v-parameters. Although this is the simplest and most common method of populating a system, it does not achieve the best results for non-rectilinear surfaces. Imagine the Earth's lines of latitude and longitude: the lines form approximately perfect squares near the equator, but as the poles are approached the grid becomes distorted and non-rectilinear.

Because of this, the enclosure system does not form a complete hemisphere, but appears as to have been "cutout" at the top and bottom edges to avoid distortion. Populating surfaces with components is one of the most exploited features of parametric design tools such as GenerativeComponents and Grasshopper, but its sophistication is lacking. New algorithms to populate non-rectilinear and non-curvilinear surfaces and meshes without distorting components will be a major step forward in parametric design.

The Component Systems

The first component system consists of modified triangular panels oriented tangential to the surface plane. There are two layers in this component system. The depth between these two layers, the protrusion of the surface from its base position, and the size of openings in each panel are the three parametrically controlled variables. For this experiment I chose to link the variables in the following manner: an outward protrusion of the surface caused the depth between the panels and the size of their openings to increase. Similarly, an inward protrusion caused the depth and size of openings to decrease. The relation between these variables could be configured in any manner, and is envisioned to be optimized for conditions such as light corridors, thermal and environmental protection, and public and private preferences.

The second component system links the two panel layers together by resisting compression. There is one connecting component for each edge of each triangular panel component. These components are configured to resist compression between the two layers, but do not help resist tensile forces between the layers. For this, common rubber hair ties link adjacent connecting components together, while simultaneously resisting tensile forces between the two layers of panels. With all of the systems in places, the whole enclosure system is considerably strong, rigid, and robust. However, the failure of any single system may lead to the collapse of the whole.