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Master of Advanced Studies
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Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture, Specialization in Computer Aided Architectural Design | 065-0005/6
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Ludger Hovestadt, Philipp Schaerer
Chair of CAAD, ETH Zurich

Leitung: Russell Loveridge, Philipp Schaerer


Over the past fifteen years, computer-aided design has dramatically changed the development and fabrication cycle in most design industries. In the large design based professions outside of architecture, (aerospace, auto, shipbuilding, industrial design…) computer aided manufacturing (CAM) has evolved alongside CAD as the principal method of transferring a design from digital into a physical reality.

Recent changes in affordability and availability of computing power, complex modeling software, and facilities for CAM have made this technology available to architects and the greater design industry. This changes the current typical production cycle, from the distinction between design and fabrication, to a process where the designer is also intrinsically involved in the manufacturing of the components for the assembly of the whole.

There are a number of different forms of automated fabrication based on either 2d cutting of materials, or three dimensional methods of solid or surface form creation. There are two basic processes of 3d fabrication, additive and reductive. Additive processes, sometimes referred to as ‘rapid prototyping’ construct a model by building-up its geometry based on sectional layering of material, the smaller the layer thickness - the greater the precision of the model. Reductive fabrication is the opposite; it begins with a solid block of material and carves off the excess to reveal the designed form. In this course we will primarily focus on the reductive technology of CNC milling.

This seminar will be an introduction to the design and manufacturing of complex surface forms. The focus of study is the aesthetic, technical, and tectonic potentials of three-dimensional surface topology in architecture, based on the combination of digital modeling, scripting or programming, and computer numerically controlled (CNC) manufacturing. The module will be run as a product development studio, where the methodology and design decisions are as important as the final produced piece. Experimentation and the design cycle are an integral part of the working methodology, and the results of all trials should be documented. The seminar will be conducted as both an experimental design project, and as a skill-building tutorial.

Warm Up:

The first assignment will be a basic skill building assignment following the basic milling work progression:

  • generating a surface, or series of surfaces, (MAYA or other CAD) assignment 1)
  • translating them into G-Code, (Surf CAM)
  • and finally milling the pieces. (Precix)

Each student is required to create a milled surface within a block of polystyrene foam board (supplied) with dimensions of 50cm x 30cm x 14cm (maximum). The surface is to be created in Maya (or any other CAD program), and broken into several component areas. When using Surf-CAM to create milling paths for the surface, the different areas can be used to differentiate and experiment with parameters for the milling path types, step sizes, and endmills. By varying the parameters the different areas across the surface should demonstrate differing surface textures and patterns.

The emphasis of this assignment is to familiarize the students with the different software, introduce the students to the machine and give them an overview of its capabilities (and limitations), and give the students an idea about the basic work flow and the time requirements.

Revision r1.4 - 12 Aug 2005 - 15:37 - PhilippSchaerer
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