Research Project Ideas

Ever since freshman year, I have been enthralled with art making machines. Especially the three axis precision machines we call CNCs such as 3d printers, laser cutters, routers, and plasma cutters. These devises are capable of incredible additive and subtractive manufacturing, executed with precision, on a repeatable basis. These qualities are attractive, but I’m also curious to explore how these precise machines can be combined with messy, imprecise processes to create something partially left to chance.

A few Inspirations.
• The reprap and 3d printing communities at large. Many professionals and hobbyists alike have created and modified printers and accessories to enhance these machines.
This Guy who added a sharpie to his plasma cutter. This modification improved his fabrication skills and times
The MPCNC (Mostly Printed CNC). I really like this project. While it’s probably not the most rigid cnc for router milling (and there are some serious safety concerns from reading the forums) This project’s ingenuity amazes me and creates opportunities for super interesting modifications like one user who turned theirs into an embroidery machine.


The Pancake Bot, I saw at the DESIGNS FOR DIFFERENT FUTURES show with my Art and Algorithms class. This opened my eyes to uses of 3d printers outside of rigid materials, and the sense that these machines can be used in humorous and frivolous ways.

While the machines on campus are fantastic at creating repeatable forms in a limited number of materials, a question arises from their uniformity. Could I build an xyz based machine to deposit other materials or processes? The answer is most certainly yes. Besides the pancake bot, there are already machines to 3d print wax, metal, clay, concrete, and more. So, I began thinking of other possibilities:
• Silly string
• Liquids
• Jell-O
• Paint
• Liquid metal
• Propane torch, for wood burning?

• Wood Burning tool
• Spray Foam

The two ideas most interesting and plausible in my opinion would be a wood burning tool for a simple conversion, and a spray foam dispenser for a more complicated build. The spray foam ventures further into my ideal realm of precision dispensing mixed with an unpredictable material, creating a form left partially up to chance. However, connecting a wood burner up to an old 3d printer sounds like a better place to start. The parameters and controls would be easier, and through grasshopper, I can sample images, than map the brightness value to time values for burning pixels into the wood. I’m not married to this idea, but I like it as a jumping off point.

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