Textile Logics: Designing Structural Membranes

August 22-24 , 2011 the last and final workshop of the Digital Crafting Workshops series was held at the Design School in Kolding Denmark.   Workshop 5, titled  Textile Logics:  How to Brace,  was run by Mette Ramsgard Thompsen Head of CITA in Copenhaen, with invited guest Sean Alquist from the Institute for Computational Design at the University of  Stuttgart.The workshop focussed on the relationship between digital tools and the fabrication of variegated textile tension structures.  Textile designers Vibeke Riisberg , textile engineer Joy Boutrup, and textile manufacturing technical designer Helene Jensen  from the Design School at Kolding helped guide 3 teams of architects, engineers, artists and designers in creating three versions of tension structures from different types of variegated textiles.On Day 1, Teams designed the external shape of the tension structures as well as the textile itself  on laptops.    Vibeke and Helene worked with teams to produce  knitting samples and tested techniques.  The picture above is the the external shape and textile my team designed, in this image it is fully tensioned.  In this case the textile acts like a net.  Stresses are moving primarily through the thicker parts of the textile.On Day 2 teams began to process their textile patterns for the knitting machine.  The picture below shows the fabric our team designed directly from the industral knitting machine.  You can see that the fabric has a lot of bubbles that do not carry so much stress.


The workshop provided a unique opportunity to fabricate using tools from the textile and commercial apparel industry. Here are some pictures of the tools used to fabricate our tension structure.  The sewing machine below, sewed the loose ends of the knit together with a polyester and nylon thread, and sliced off the leftover part of the seam as you stitched.   Very fast,  scary at first.

Sewing on an Edger Machine

In the picture below is the industrial knitting machine that made our textile, which was a double knit structure.  The machine was started with plain wool to get it going and then the yarn was changed to the polyester yarn.

flat Knitting Machine

Day 3 was a seminar day, where there were invited guests, and teams discussed what was learned during the entire process  that moved from digital information to the fabricated tension structure.  You can read more about the Digital Crafting 5 Workshop here:  http://www.digitalcrafting.dk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DC-DigitalCrafting_Web_S.pdf

Cloth Emerging from Knitting Machine

Python Powered Textiles

Matters of Tension and Compression within Geometries

Woven Half Sphere_Computational Textile_Boundary Stretched


Issues of tension and compression seems to be thematically recurring in the process of developing these printed textiles works.  Above  is an  ABS 3d printed model created with the plain weave script from the PointCrowd RhinoPython workshop run by Ari Kardassis and Masoud Akbarzadeh in January 2011.  Many of the tension and compression issues stem from the phenomena of what I call getting gauge.   It is that trial and error part of getting the right tension on a knit textile for example to meet the size requirement for a sweater or blanket etc.   Geometrically for this diameter pipe or  yarn, this is about the maximum distance the outer boundary can stretch from this specific original sphere before the piped surface starts to twist along the spine of the curve and warp the circular section of the pipe.   This behavior makes for zero sectional thickness in the 3d digital model, and cannot be printed.   This first experiment had a very simple version of piping that is computationally much lighter.  This pipe script works, up to a limit.  In this version of this model, the piping or yarn does not intersect at the weave crossings on this model, but the geometry of the sphere holds the separate woven strands together.




Compression of Single Link Textile


The single link scripted model above was printed as a flat, rectangular model, as you can see with no boundary return along the open ends of the strand, permitting this model a way to slide diagonally  in the xy plane to have different states of density.   Each of the strands is also free to rotate in the z direction allowing for some curvature parallel to the direction of the strand.

Knit Half_DetailKnit Half Sphere_Detail


This is a model of interloping or knitting and presented the most issues with the pipe or yarn torquing into nothing,  it required a new pipe script to get it to print at all.   The section on this model is true and circular.   The script is computationally much more demanding in terms of what it needs to track, but you get good results in the section of the yarn.   It is posted here,  thanks to Skylar Tibbets for help with solving the twisted pipe.  This was made with some intersections in the yarn, but geometrically will hold together just fine if the yarn does not self intersect.  The “ApplyCurvePipe” command in Rhino yields beautiful pipe results,  especially for the knit curves and  I have an update from Pascal Golay at McNeel.  You can use   “ExtractPipedCurve” to get a nice meshed curve from CurvePipe object that can be exported to an stl file.

Knit Half Sphere_InteriorKnit Half Sphere_Interior


Having made these physical models,  I think the most useful model is the script, that can be used repeatedly to look at many different kinds of things both physically and digitally.   These textile samples are neither surfaces nor bones  and can reside somewhere in between, because you can push the script to be either/or if you so wish.    These qualities have meant that it has been possible to look at these models as outer perimeters or skin and as  structure.  This kind of model does not require one kind of outer boundary or shape but is made up of many interrelationships of parts that can then be formed for multiple purposes.

Experiments to continue…

Thank you to Chris Dewart and Seth Hall at RPL for use of the ABS printer.

Fabric, Plastic, Heat

Katryna Carter’s Snap Lamp Cover

Katryna Cater Snap Lamp Cover

A second project the Zero House shown at the Thermoplastic House Workshop run by Mark Goldthorpe at MIT’s School of Architecture, featured thin skin fiberglass textile composite as a way to quickly produce low cost, durable housing for Haiti.  Scaling up here is a panel produced in collaboration with Construction Solutions in Amesbury, MA that has a polystyrene core that provides not only stiffness, but also the insulation requirement for the house.  The panels are joined at the seam by a biscuit like piece also made of a folded piece of composite.  The workshop explored ways that the house could be made entirely of this thermoplastic coated fiberglass using the existing production machines in the Construction Solutions factory.  Ultimately the entire house would be panels seamed together by the biscuit type joint. What is really great about the house is that it is parametric and can be designed by others to suit their needs.  It is envisioned by the workshop group that the house is produced by a fablab on site, so remaining to consider as part of the design is how others in situ communities interface with all the great programming tools used to produce the house. Also fantastic was the fact that the group collaborated with a Sustainable Life Cycle team out at Stanford to see how the Zero House stacked up against conventional concrete block construction, the results were favorable for the Zero House.


Automated Fiber Placement Robot Constructing Fusilage

Starting off the Thermoplastic House Workshop Michael Silver presented his work on Composite Architectures:  Engineering Complex Fiber Placed Structural Membranes for Sustainable Building Applications.  Michael showed his work using Automated Fiber Placement, AFP to place thermoplastic tape like material in patterns along a mandrel creating a light and stiff beam for use in buildings. This is the same method used to make a single piece fuselage for this Hawker Beechcraft 4000 Jet, eliminating the thousands of parts and fasteners typically used to construct jet bodies.   Using one material and a single process to drive the design of the piece Michael Silver has discovered simply by layering the material one can create gradients to accommodate different structural capacities as well as meet different lighting requirements. Also impressive is the great synopsis of the potential sustainability of this particular method.  Here is a link to the report on his work funded by the Boston Society of Architects Research Grants.   Definitely worth the time to read it through.


(The image of the fusilage is from http://www.mmsonline.com/cdn/cms/Viper%20machine%20%202.jpg)

We are 43 years post The Graduate and we did go into plastics big time, but it’s the plastic leftover that troubles us now.  Does it never go away?

What kinds of plastics are good to use and can be reused more than one time? What kinds of energy goes into making these?  If you know drop a line.


Grassy Textiles

Edwina Portocarrerero’s Grass and Silicon Textile

This is a non woven piece by Edwina Portocarrero  made of silicon and fresh picked grass for the New Textiles course taught by Leah Beuchley at the Media Lab at MIT. In this picture taken on April 14th, it is one day old, I will be taking pictures of this over the next month to see what happens.  Maybe it will decay, but then again, the silicon is coated rather generously on it, so maybe not. Stay tuned.   It’s a totally flexible textile so you can wrap around curved surfaces, fold it, and make other interesting shapes with it, and because the silicon is water proof, depending on the thickness it could keep water out if you wanted it.  This one has a porous back, and has a beautiful transparency to it, and it smells really great .  If you are allergic to grass, you will definitely sneeze it’s the real thing.


 Surface Landscape_Programmable Grass_Felecia Davis

Surface Landscape develops the idea of merging building and landscape together,  compressing   an element of the domestic landscape to the surface of a building envelope.  It makes the technology of how we cultivate our  landscapes explicit.    This green wall is made up of small pixilated units of grass in which each unit of grass can be programmed and fed with different nutrients to change the color and texture of the grass.  A sensible feedback loop can be made with the surrounding environment, and information from the wall back to to the programmer can happen over the course of different months, allowing  calibrated adjustment.

Detail Surface Landscape_Grass Wall_ Programmable Feed Tubes_Felecia Davis