Material Experiments


 $The whole squad $


2nd round of casts

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3rd round of casts

4 3 The second round of castings were scaled up, with each form occupying a volume of 6″ x 6″ x 9″. We began using Rock-ite instead of quikcrete, which dries quicker and is supposed to be much stronger. The resolution, because the cement powder is much finer, creates a much smoother surface. we were also able to introduce more voids in the cast due to the increase in strength. With wire for re-inforcement, we will be able to generate much more dramatic voids in the future.

1st round of casts

1 2 3


[ Excavation: ]


Using a stick or something pointy, begin to scrape away  the excess sand.


At this point you will usually be able to tell whether the concrete has failed or not.



To dry out the sand, use a heat gun.


Finish off with an air compressor. After a few minutes of blowing sand out, you will have the cast in place.


[ Formwork removal: ]


Apply a light amount of wood glue to the edges of the formwork to create a butt joint. After the concrete has cured for 1 hr, use a chisel separate the butt joints.


The formwork should come off fairly easily. When using mdf, which is fibrous, the formwork tends to want to split so make sure to put the chisel right in the seam.




Easy does it…




Hello World?


[ Casting: ]


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Using separate containers, drop in concrete and sand, making sure that there is continuity between all of the layers of concrete. Tamp it down, but not too much. Fill up the formwork all the way to the top Once water is poured, cement curing process to take place for at least 45 minutes. Its okay to have standing water sitting at the top.


Original test with rockite




[ Attempt 5 : ] 

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The final result left a lot to be desired, we weren’t exactly getting the results in a rapid enough time frame that we wanted. The tilting motion produced intereseting effects, but the friction between the mdf base and the sand prevented the material from flowing freely around the bed.  




We rebuilt the gantry frame, got the stepper motor functioning, and we are now developing a swiveling build plate. The idea is that the plate below the frame will tip back and forth like a see saw, there will be small linear reservoirs for sand, so that each time it tips back and forth it will run down the surface using gravity. The traveling carriage will travel back and forth on the y axis depositing resin or some other kind of bonding agent. We might also try to build a swiveling secondary head on the end of the traveling carriage to double up the amount resin depositing.




A sketch of a deposition device for the one-axis CNC



[ Attempt 4 : ]

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In an attempt to come up with a much faster deposition technique we turned to chemistry. Sodium Acetate, aka “Hot Ice,” seemed to be a valid candidate due to a very rapid rate of crystallization. However, our attempt to manufacture it on our own has only resulted in another visit from our old friends at FDNY. –> img_4594



[ Attempt 3: ]

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After almost incinerating Higgins Hall with our original prototype, we took the time for some careful soul searching. Our 2nd attempt involved redesigning the holder for the saltwater so that it was at a safe distance from the cook-top. We rebuilt the mount of the plate with steel bars to withstand the heat. However, the rate of deposition left a lot to be desired. (No firefighters this time)


[ Attempt 2 ]

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Simplified prototype uses gravity to administer the solution over a heated steel plate. the idea is that as the solution drips onto the plate, the water will quickly evaporate leaving behind a solution that will build up on top of itself. In theory… However, after spending over 5 years in architecture school neither of us have realized that an MDF support placed 1/2″ away from a hot plate will inevitably combust. When FDNY stormed Pratt’s Architecture building, the firefighters discovered a suspiciously-looking setup that included a bucket of mystery-liquid and white crystals forming on a hot plate. The bucket and the liquid have been confiscated for meth tests, we guess…


[ Attempt 1 ]

IMG_0672 IMG_0673-300x225 The very first sketch: The basic idea here was to create a machine that can simulate and ultimately control the deposition of salt crystals from a solution. The 1st sketch is describing a syringe being pushed by a linear actuator, thus controlling the amount of solution. The solution is pumped through a hose which is moved on the x and y axis.