Live Forms: a Parametric Reconfigurable Formwork

Introduction: Live Forms: a Parametric Reconfigurable Formwork

Live Forms is a re-configurable form work designed by Brett Petty and Meshal AlButhie at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Live Form was designed and built in the Digital Craft Lab ( Creative Architecture Machines Advanced Studio with instructors Michael Shiloh and Jason Kelly Johnson of Future Cities Lab (

Live Forms revolutionizes the process of creating mass customizable formworks for construction. By allowing for a direct link between a parametric computer model and a robotic jig, a designer can iterate and explore a multitude of design potentials.

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Step 1: Gear Housing

Each gear housing fits on a 1'3 x 1' piece of 1/8" plywood. For this project 16 gear housing units were laser cut and built. There are eight housing units on each side of the machine.

The gear wheel and track will need to be cut on 1/4" Plywood.

The shaft collar is used to hold each 5/16" dowel in place and is glued to the housing as seen in the diagram.

Step 2: Machine Assembly

Each side of the machine will require two 34"x 24" pieces of plywood, two 38" x 24" pieces of 1/8" acrylic, and one piece of 19" x 24" piece of acrylic. All these pieces will be cut on a laser cutter using the files attached.

Assembly of the machine is shown in the PDF attached and uses zip ties for sturdy attachment.

Step 3: Latex Stencil and Spread


- Liquid Rubber Latex

- Laser cut acrylic sheet stencil (thickness optional)

- Acrylic sheet, same size as stencil (thickness optional)

- Size 4 paint brush (discard after use)

- 4” Sponge brush (discard after use)

- Double side tape

- Small bucket of water

- Paper towels

- Respirator (optional)

- Latex gloves (optional)

- Heat gun (optional)


Laser cut stencil .dxf file out of Cast Acrylic.

Use double side tape on the bottom of stencil to fix it on to a secondary sheet of acrylic (same size as stencil).

Use double side tape on the bottom of the secondary sheet of acrylic to fix it onto a stationary work surface.

Using a size 4 paint brush, paint first coat of Liquid Rubber Latex into the cut out areas of the stencil.

Wait for the applied coat to reach midway between wet and dry (tacky feel) approximately 30 minutes from start time (dry time may vary according to climate conditions and latex brand).

Clean paint brush using water and paper towels while waiting for applied coat to reach the appropriate dry level (tacky feel).

Apply 8-10 more coats of Liquid Rubber Latex into cut out areas of stencil till the reach of top stencil surface using the same process of first applied coat with dry time and cleaning of brush in between each coat (number of coats may vary according to stencil sheet thickness and latex brand).

Using a 4” sponge brush start with full spread coat along the entire stencil sheet and repeat for an approximate total of 4-6 coats with different direction brush strokes for each coat. Also, dry time and cleaning of brush in between each coat (number of coats may vary according to latex brand).

Allow at least 24 hours for latex to fully dry before peeling it off from stencil.

Step 4: Latex Assembly


Drill with 1/16” drill bit

#6 3/4” Round head wood screw

#6 Flat washer

#8 Flat washer

Painted latex sheet

5/16” Wood dowel


Poke a small hole on latex sheet at appropriate piston locations.

Using a 1/16” drill bit, drill a hole in the center of the dowels top flat circular surface appropriate to length of the wood screw.

Attach parts in the following order:

#6 3/4" Round head wood screw

#6 Flat washer

#8 Flat washer

Latex sheet (pattern side up)

#8 Flat washer

#6 Flat washer

Screw into dowel here

Step 5: Structure Assembly

Cut structure framework out of 1/8" acrylic using DXF file attached.

Each circle cut out will be glued to the structure box for the 3/16" steel tubing to fit into place. This will allow for cables to run through the dowels for hanging after the panel has been cast.

Do not glue steel tubing to acrylic. You will need to be able to detach the tubing from the assembly after the cast is complete.

Once the structure box is complete, Rest the box on one side of the machine and on top of the latex. place the other side of the machine on top and make sure each box is aligned correctly and the latex is pulled tightly.

The pattern of the latex should be touching the acrylic.

Step 6: Outer Box Assembly

After the Structure assembly is complete you can attach the short sides of the outer box first.

Using threaded rod,nuts, and double sided tape pinch the latex between the structure assembly and the outer box.

After attaching each side with the threaded rod, use zip ties on each tab to ensure a sturdy attachment.

Step 7: Grasshopper

Using Grasshopper, you can manipulate the surface of the latex. Once you have found the surface desired you can lock the pistons in place using dowels.

After the pistons are locked, turn the machine with the hole in the structure assembly facing up. This will be the area where you pour your casting material.

Step 8: Casted Panels

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    2 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Pardon me for asking, but what are the applications of such a device?