digital work cell of one


Hickory, North Carolina


May 2005


The first discreet project I undertook after getting our ShopBot up and cutting was to fulfill a prototype order for curved modesty panels at the behest of a national office furniture manufacturer here in North Carolina. It wonderfully demonstrated the paradigm shift afforded by the vertical integration of design, engineering, programming, and making. Id worked out in my mind how I wanted to build the bending jig but had not drawn anything other than the radius adjusted for springback (a characteristic of all laminated parts.) I was up early on the morning in question and after a cup of coffee I fired up the computer, launched TurboCAD and set about working through the particulars. In an hour or so Id worked through the construction, modeled the assembled jig in 3D, exploded and nested the parts into two 4x8 sheets and exported the two sheets as dxf files. After a second cup of coffee I lit up the parts programming software and worked through the various tool paths required to cut the parts. I pulled two sheets of LitePly from the stack and within another hour and a half I had the parts cut, trimmed and the job knocked together. The accompanying pictures show the sequence which got the jig designed, engineered, programmed, cut and assembled with time to spare before lunch. The last two pictures are of the parts being laminated via vacuum bag (production bag will have reusable gaskets) and the finished parts ready for delivery.

I spent no time drafting, or producing drawings from which to work (parts knocked together only one way) or laying out or making cut lists - really quite amazing.


Now understand the following week I ground through several days of crashes, cutter failures, feed-rate mysteries and programming frustrations - life remains life - having said that this seamless approach to digital making is truly extraordinary.


I used material that would have been wasted to create wood spring clips that hold the buttered up parts in place while the bag is sealed to the tape. These quirky parts found there way to my friend David Lackey's gallery in NYC. Check it out - Whirlwind Space.