Blurring The Lines Between Digital Design and Fabrication?

“The times where architects and designers had to stand at the sidelines of fabrication processes are long gone. Reaching out to the fabrication industry to partner early in the project is fundamental; it allows us to understand limitations, constraints and opportunities, as well as accurate costing. “

Building Information Modeling some time ago opened a world of opportunities and collaborative processes to us. Some of them are obvious and have been explored and discussed in length. The process and definition of deliverables, BIM or not, can effectively respond to and be defined by the project specific requirements around the issues of design, constructability and procurement – but are we pushing this process far enough?

I believe we have to allow our thinking to evolve beyond the issues of coordination, clash detection and FM. The true value in a collaborative process is in the continuity of design information – so why stop at the coordination interface when it comes to building? Our BIM/ digital design and documentation platforms offer proven ways to coordinate and model to absolute detail. A ‘design to fabrication’ process can be generated once we overlay our BIM models with detailed knowledge of a particular fabrication processes. Part models can be extracted and be developed to the required level of detail – even in isolation from the remainder of the project. We can then feed these design to fabrication models into a robotic fabrication process – without losing detail, design resolution or valuable time.

The designer’s role can therefore extend into the fabrication process using digital tools. Key to the success of such a digital design to fabrication process is to understand limitations, constraints and the exploration of opportunities as well as accurate costing. A design team can evolve a design with fabrication in mind, resolve geometry early in the process and assist in leading the project down a path of accelerated delivery and at the same time elevating the resolution of the design. Our team is currently developing a design and fabrication process that uses part models to inform and drive a robotic fabrication process. We are exchanging 3dmodel for fabrication – which is a fluid and dynamic process.

“The question is not whether designers that operate in the building industry will inform and use design to fabrication processes directly, but to what extent.’

Joachim Clauss is an Associate Director at Bates Smart with more than 15 years experience accrued in Australia, Germany and South Africa. He is currently leading the Opera and Collins House projects as well as a number of feasibility studies and masterplans. Joachim is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Melbourne, RMIT and the University of Applied Sciences Berlin. He has acquired extensive knowledge in the field of design technology and is a regular contributor to various industry forums.

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