Welcome to the Fabrication Lab
Experimentation with materials, prototyping and testing, physical mock-ups and the exploration of new fabrication processes is integral part of the design culture at the GSD. In support of these pursuits the fabrication lab features a wide range of equipment, ranging from cutting edge robotic workcells, rapid prototyping machines and several CNC milling machines to metal working machines and material testing machines. The shop is structured as an open environment for material-based learning and research, using a wide range of materials from foam and wood, metal and plastics to composites and smart materials. Scale models and full-size prototypes are produced by students and faculty of all departments and all study programs at the GSD.
The lab is managed by Rachel Vroman and Burton LeGeyt. Additional support is provided by a team of approximately 35 trained students. Together they provide advice and assistance for all lab work, maintain our extensive arsenal of devices and machines, and monitor safety. We look forward to seeing you in the lab!
A significant number of computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) tools depend primarily on movement in only the x and y axis to make flat shapes. This type of control is often called 2 1/2D machining, and was first applied to traditional cutting tools such as oxy-acetylene torches for steel cutting, milling and drilling machines and knives for cutting vinyl, card materials and cloth in the advertising, sign, point-of-purchase and fashion industries. Plotter - type computer controls also helped automate traditional operations such as nailing and drilling while taming modern cutting tools such as laser cutters, water-jet cutters and plasma cutters. These machines typically require simple, 2D cad software and drawing plot files in HPGL format for operation.
CNC Machine Tools
Computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) machine tools are the workhorses of CNC manufacturing technology, and are responsible for assisting in the manufacture of virtually everything we purchase or use today - from the swoopy-shaped toothbrush you used this morning to the soles of your running shoes to the curves of the new GSD library furniture. CNC has been applied to 2-axis tools such as lathes, cut-off tools and slitting operations, but perhaps the most significant applications are found in 3-axis, 4-axis and 5-axis tools such as milling machines, stone cutting equipment, grinders, router tables, robotic welders, material handlers and an astonishing variety of other tools. These tools require sophisticated CAD/CAM software to translate three-dimensional models into simple text files that directly control tool motion through combinations of linear and rotational motion, such as .TAP and .CNC file formats.
CNC machine tools are deeply embedded in industrial processes where they have been in use for over three decades, and they are having a growing and visible effect in building technology. The importance of this family of tools is reflected in the fact that the first two CAD/CAM tools purchased by the GSD were the LM-1000 CNC milling machine and the larger CNC router. They remain the backbone of our CNC manufacturing capabilities. Over the years added a CNC Prototrac knee mill to the machines tools - a device that allows the machining of metals in addition to softer materials. the most recent addition to the growing arsenal of CNC machine tools is an Onsrud high-speed 3-axis router, equipped with dual work surfaces and vacuum beds. A 6 axis mill is available as part of the robotic work cell described below.
Robotic Waterjet and Robotic 6-Axis Mill
Robotic devices allow unprecedented flexiblity in terms of applications and programming. Our large 6-axis robotic manipulator is used primarily for multi-axis milling as well as for abrasive waterjet cutting. A smaller 6-axis robot is used for material handling and related experiments. These devices are programmed using offline simulation environments such as RobotMaster and RobotStudio, as well as through Grashopper components within Rhino.
3D Rapid Prototyping
The most direct methods yet developed to make objects from 3D digital files include a variety of 3D Rapid Prototyping processes including stereolithography, selective laser sintering, fused deposition modeling, laminated object manufacturing and 3D printing. Printing with thermoplastics or powders and glues that use modified print heads to build up layers of material thousandths of an inch at a time have become the technology of choice for rapid prototyping in the design environment. These machines typically require CAD software capable of drawing surfaces or solids with 3-dimensional characteristics that are exported in IGES or STL file formats. At the GSD we use two Z-Corps printers, a Dimension ABS printer, and an Object Polyjet for high-end rapid prototypes.
Wood and Metal Shop
Our traditional shop offers extensive support for model and prototyping activities in wood, metal, thermoformable plastics, and others. The structural testing machine allows users to determine the mechanical properties of material specimens.
SolidWorks, CATIA, Digital Project, and MasterCam provide tools for defining two and three - dimensional models and preparing files to control individual machines. Workshops that teach basic and advanced software skills are offered regularly throughout both the fall and the spring term. RobotStudio is used to generate instructions for our robotic devices. Scripting techniques are extensively used to connect design environments such as Rhino with fabrication devices including 6-axis industrial robots.