This project has been developed participating to WAAS – Workshop on Advanced Architectural Structures, 2009 edition, organized by Prof. Arno Pronk and held at TU Delft in the Netherlands. The workshop, dedicated to deepen the use of avant-garde design instruments and building techniques for architecture, it’s been useful in order to learn some design software, such as Grasshopper, plug-in for the best known McNeel Rhinoceros. The course, held by the McNeel Official Trainer Rinus Roelofs, was divided in a first part dedicated to the basics for the use of the software and a second phase focused on the autonomous development of projects by the participants. At the end of the workshop the TU Delft rapid-prototyping laboratory (TNO) offered the realization of the projects through a nylon-base 3D printer, with a maximum volume of 50x50x50mm.

Using the model dimension limits as starting point, I decided to realize a small toy, characterize by a captivating design and, at the same time, a specific functionality. From this basis I started to think about a whirligig, which formal development is focused on the concept of knot, that emerges in several works presented by Roelofs during the first part of the workshop. The geometry is generated from a single circular arc, which is deformed from the grip to the end point of the whirligig in order to form a fillet. The thin shape is regulated by a series of arches which represents the generative curves of a NURBS surface. Once that the geometry was created, I gave it a thickness (1mm, minimum limit defined for the 3D printer). Then I copied it in series, aiming to obtain the whole object.

The Grasshopper definition starts with selecting some control points that generates the fillet. These are variable in position through a specific series of sliders. In the next step I generated the arches, the fillet and introduced a series of adjustments in order to obtain the most interesting shape. Then I introduced a second series of sliders in order to realize the knot. At the end I realized an offset of the surfaces and capped the holes, exporting the file in Rhinoceros. This 3D model, realized with Grasshopper, is fully parametric and can be modified anytime in each part. Once that the model was imported in Rhino I checked the quality of the volume and saved it as stl file (stereolithography), sending it to the TNO for the 3D printing.

Although this object was designed to be used by a child, it is characterized by elegance and lightness directly connected with the natural world (shells, urchins), also deriving by the serial repetition of interlacing shapes. The production process, characterized by the superimposition of layered dust (Nylon sublimation) reminds about generative process of shells and produces a bump effect on the surface, increasing the complexity. Once produced, the object was tested and resulted as perfectly functional.

The project highlights the possibility to generate fully parametric highly complex forms starting from the connection of simple circular arches. Parametric software as Grasshopper allow architects and designers to investigate new morphogenesis processes which, linked with technological innovation for components production, will allow the realization of extremely complex and elegant objects and buildings in the future.

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