Date: 2019
Client: Makespace
Principal Investigators: Jason S. Johnson, Guy Gardner
Project Budget: Withheld
Project Team: Guy Gardner, Kim Tse,
Charlene Karl, Karan Sharma, Christopher Green
Funding Agencies: Makespace
Status: Built

The Livewire project was completed in order to provide customized, innovative seating solutions for an event hosted by Makespace for an Inventures Canada conference. The final result emerged from an iterative digital process which explored a range of possible design outcomes resulting from various combinations of ruled-surface-based toolpaths. These toolpaths were executed by an ABB IRB 2600 industrial robot fitted with a custom hot-wire cutting tool. The tool consists of an aluminum armature or “bow” holding a thin, electrically heated nichrome wire under tension.

Traditionally, customization and automation have been seen as mutually exclusive approaches to production. Livewire incorporates industrial robotics to build a vocabulary of customized formal and surface effects used in the production of furniture for the private event. This vocabulary incorporates the limits and constraints of the robotic positioning and tooling and can therefore be applicable for future experimentation. Demonstrated is an approach to developing a catalogue of surface grammars that can be quickly deployed for use in the production of objects and surfaces in EPS foam. In this instance, the work demonstrates how a design brief for event seating can be creatively reinterpreted into a series of unique sculptural objects using generative scripts and automated construction processes. The approach outlined above leverages a rapidly deployable technique, readily available materials, and high levels of customization towards a workflow which can be easily adapted for future use. This workflow allows the designer to incorporate the interactions between tooling and material for aesthetic and performative effect while eliminating the need for construction drawings.

Further research will involve investigating how this process can be leveraged for use with other materials through the development of molds for casting material such as concrete, or adaptation to other forms of end-of-arm robotic tooling such as bandsaws. This research will continue to investigate the potential for customized surfaces and emergent material effects, as well as how the vocabulary of surface textures developed through these initial tests could allow for a range of technical and ornamental functions related to aesthetic, acoustic, and environmental performance.