Sticky backed plastic…

One of the fun parts of my job is that I get to tinker about with software and see how it could be used, either for my research or for my teaching.  Over the summer, the MSc students will be undertaking their dissertations and most of the topics that I set are generally quite playful so as to maintain their interest and enthusiasm, but equally, they’re highly demanding…  One of the topics that I’m interested in is the use of cardboard as a structural material and how this can be formed into innovative shapes and forms.  One of the initial difficulties can sometimes be encountered relates the geometry and the formation of organic forms.  This is where 3D modelling can come in handy, and I’ve slowly been trying to learn 3D Studio Max to help generate the geometry so I can unpick the structure to create templates.  Whilst these models can help me understand the geometry and overall shape and massing of models, it can be a large leap into constructing them and physically realising the componentry to create scaled physical models.  This is where my latest toy comes into play, it’s created by AutoDesk and it’s called 123DMake and it’s attractively priced at £0 and is available for PCs and Macs and can convert 3D model files into cardboard planes that can be fitted together to make all sorts of intricate shapes…

I’ve only just started messing with the software, but I’m quite optimistic that I will be able to create some really creative forms and shapes with the software over the summer, I just need to get some cardboard and a nice sharp knife lined up, or sweet talk someone into lending me their laser cutter.  I know that it doesn’t sound likely that cardboard can be used as a structural material, but it’s being used successfully to make crash helmets that pass a multitude of safety tests and even more impressive is that cardboard is being used to create a temporary cathedral in New Zealand following the recent earthquakes…  Cardboard structures are not as uncommon as you might think, Frei Otto for example constructed the Japan Pavilion for the Hanover Expo… go have a rummage in your recycling bin, you might just have enough for a bungalow… at least 123DMake will give you a nice template to cut out and stick together for your next housing project…

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