MAS.863 How to Make (Almost) Anything

Rachelle Villalon

Project Ideas

November 2010

Blueprint Blocks. What if the materials that builders use for assembly had self instructions? That is, what if we don't have to rely on blueprints as a set of instructions for construction, since the materials already know how they should be built?

The goal is to create a block whose "material" inherently has "rule checks" as to how it should be constructed. Luckily, the development of shape grammars can assist with this task. Shape grammars allow users to assemble designs with objects through visual spatial representations, rules, and graphic labels! The catch is, the user must know how the rules of assembly must work in order to avoid making unintentional assembly moves.

How will this work and how do we prevent incorrect assembly?
The blocks will have to communicate with one another by knowing their immediate neighbor's spatial position, i.e. If Block B isn't positioned correctly to Block A, then Block B should throw an error and signal the user putting the blocks together that Block B must be placed in a particular configuration.

Hardware Possibilities
-IR frequency detector, IR LED detection pair
-XBEE //networking & communications
-RFID tags
-Linear potentiometer, measure analog input (resistance)

Are all blocks "smart"? Or can 2-3 blocks serve as the "smart" blocks for the rest of the assembly?
Which face and orientation of the block will actually contain the sensors?
Image from 4.521 Computational Design lecture slide, "Basic Grammars II" - Professor Terry Knight.

September 2010
(1) Automated Weaving Agent. What if large buildings of the future could incorporate self-constructing systems that can create multiple designs to react to varied climates and urban infrastructure? This project has been inspired by a skyscraper competition entry I had designed with two Los Angeles architects (Paul Groh, AIA and Todd Conversano, AIA), and in it, we assumed an autonomous efficient structure. An automated weaving agent would interact with other agents to mechanically weave exterior carbon fiber pipes. The agents generate the pipes and create solutions that respond to design parameters. As the process continues past floor levels, lightweight space frame floor diaphragms are installed.

October 2010 - I would like to continue with the idea of creating an automated self-assembly system to mechanically construct an architectural artifact (at model scale) from sheets of material. This can be achieved by having the system analyze the 3D shape, and map the correct folds to set off actuators in sequence. Required materials:

  • Microcontroller (AVR ATmega 168)
  • 1/16" Aluminum for Chassis
  • Rails(?)
  • Gears
  • DC Motors
  • IR Sensors (to detect distance)
  • Accelerometer (tilt/angle detection)
  • Customized hinges
  • Camera(?)

(2) Multifunctional construction hat.