Volatile Mutation




Introduction: Volatile Mutation

About: Master's of Architecture Candidate at the California College of the Arts

Volatile Mutation is a design and fabrication collaboration between Tim Henshaw-Plath, Alan Cation and Dustin Tisdale. This project operates at the intersection of computational design and physical prototyping, combining multiple forms of manual and digital fabrications, ranging from 3D printing, to manual mold making, and plaster casting. The final prototype results in an architectural facade engaging in the relationship between high performance and overt ornamentation. By utilizing only four distinct modules to create one panel, we are able to achieve an extremely high level of variation in the facade resulting in 256 possible combinations. This allows for the facade articulation to obtain maximal affect through minimal means.

Step 1: Design and 3D Print 4 Modules

This step involves designing 4 different modules that can be pieced together to create a square component. The modules should be variable so that they can create variation when combined in different ways. Once the modules have been designed, they can be saved as .stl files and 3D printed on any 3D printer (our modules were printed on a Flashforge Creator). When designing the modules, keep in mind the constraints of the 3D printer being used. The final prints will be used to cast polyurethane molds in the following steps.

Step 2: Construct Frame for Mold

Here, we make 4 frames out of plywood, one for each module. This creates the negative space for the polyurethane mold. Build the frame around the 3D print, then create a hole to pour the polyurethane.

Step 3: Pour Polyurethane Into Frame

After the frame has been constructed, pour in the polyurethane. Let it cure overnight and remove.

Step 4: Prepare Molds

For this step, we created multiple polyurethane molds in order to maximize efficiency for the rest of the process. Here, we prepared the molds by inserting a piece of acrylic to join them into the negative of a panel, and also inserted plastic tubes that run through each module so that a cable can be inserted for attaching multiple panels together.

Step 5: Pour Plaster

This step involves building a frame around for polyurethane molds joined together, and pouring the plaster (or concrete) into the mold. It is important in this step to apply a release agent to the polyurethane so that the plaster does not stick to the mold and break.

Step 6: Release the Panel

Here, we carefully disassemble the mold and release the panel. Since the molds are all reusable, we can then reassemble it in whatever way we want, and pour another panel.

Step 7: Build Frame and Attach Panels

In the final step, we build a frame with evenly spaced eye hooks that we attach a cable with a turnbuckle. The panels are then strung together by the steel cable, and tightened with the turnbuckle.

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    6 Discussions

    Interesting project, thanks for sharing! I'm curious how the shapes were designed? Did you individually model all the bumps or run some kind of "fractal" or "volatile mutation" modeling code to create the shapes?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! We developed the patterning geometry as a variable mesh in Rhino with grasshopper


    5 years ago on Introduction

    that is so great, you really did a fantastic job. i wish i could design 3d objects like that!

    Woah it's so beautiful, and semi creepy but I'm not sure why. Wonderful job, thanks for sharing!


    5 years ago

    its so nice..making mould and then moulding stuffs ...great project