If you haven't already done so, make sure to check out this months issue (April 2013) of Architectural Design (AD) titled Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought.  Edited by Xavier De Kestelier and Brady Peters, this issue focuses on emerging themes in computational design practices, showcasing built and soon-to-be-built projects and provides a state of the art look at current computational design techniques.

In addition to some amazing articles written by Daniel DavisDavid RuttenDaniel PikerGiulio Piacentino, Arthur van der Harten, Thomas Grabner and Ursula Frick, and many more... it also features an article that I co-authored with Jason K. Johnson titled Firefly: Interactive Prototypes for Architectural Design.  

In addition, make sure you also take a look at the book Prototype!  edited by Julian Adenauer and Jorg Petruschat which was published by Form+Zweck last summer (2012).  Written by leading individuals at world renown design labs and research centers, this book offers a unique compilation of articles centered around the topic of advanced forms of prototyping.  In my article, IDE vs. IPE: Toward and Interactive Prototyping Environment I discuss the need to shift toward a more visually oriented Interactive Prototyping Environment (IPE) which addresses the limitations found in the existing IDE paradigm and opens up creative new opportunties for artists and designers.


I am very excited to announce that I will be working with Studio Mode in their next coLab workshop series: Hybrid PrototypesHybrid Prototypes is a two-day intensive design and prototyping workshop (with an optional third day) to be held in New York City during the weekend of January 08.


As architects and designers, we make things and build objects that interact with other objects, people, and networks. We strive for faster and simpler methods to build prototypes in the cheapest possible way, yet we are frequently hindered by temporal and practical factors that arise in the process of bringing our ideas to life. Firefly is the new paradigm for hybrid prototyping, offering a comprehensive set of software tools dedicated to bridging the gap between Grasshopper (a free plug-in for Rhino) and the Arduino micro-controller. It allows near real-time data flow between the digital and physical worlds – enabling the possibility to explore virtual and physical prototypes with unprecedented fluidity.

This fast-paced workshop will focus on hardware and software prototyping techniques. Using remote sensors, microcontrollers (Arduino), and actuators, we will build virtual and physical prototypes that can communicate with humans and the world around them. Through a series of focused exercises and design tasks, each attendee will make prototypes that are configurable, sensate, and active. An optional third workshop day is offered to those participants desiring further time to develop individual projects or lines of research. As part of a larger online infrastructure, modeLab, this workshop provides participants with continued support and knowledge to draw upon for future learning.

Attendance will be limited to provide each participant maximum dedicated time with instructors. Participants are encouraged to be familiar with the basic concepts of parametric design and interfaces of Grasshopper and Arduino.

Hybrid Prototypes was conceived through a collaboration between Studio Mode/modeLab and Andrew Payne/LIFT Architects/Grasshopper PrimerFirefly.

Andrew Payne | Principal, LIFT Architects | Co-Author, Grasshopper Primer | Co-Author, Firefly.
Ronnie Parsons + Gil Akos | Partners, Studio Mode.

All experience levels are welcome. Participants are encouraged to be familiar with the basic concepts of parametric design and interfaces of Grasshopper and Arduino.
Registration Pricing (limited enrollment) : $550/$650.
Workshop Location : modeLab | NYC.
Workshop Hours : 10AM-6PM.
Examples of Previous Workshops.

coLab Workbook | Printed + PDF Documentation
coLab Primers | Annotated Primer GHX Files
coLab Exercises | Annotated Exercise GHX Files
modeLab Fabrication Equipment | CNC High Force Cutter

Arduino Micro-controller Hardware
Arduino Control Logic
Firefly Components
Parametric Design Logics
Basic Circuitry
Sensors + Actuators

2010.December.03 | Workshop Announced + Registration Opens.
2011.January.08 | Workshop Begins.
2011.January.10 | Optional Workshop Session.

To register for the workshop, please follow this link. 


It has been entirely too long since I last posted but that should change over the coming weeks as I've been working on some really amazing projects.  To kick things off, I thought I'd share a one week project that I developed to create a dimple halftone pattern on a surface using a custom build Grasshopper definition which writes the all of the G-code (for a ShopBot CNC mill) in real-time.  I'll talk more about the fabrication setup below, but first... a little about the concept.  I've always been fascinated with the skeletal patterns of Radiolarians (a family of microscopic protozoa that float along the ocean floor). Here's aWikipedia link for more information. These creatures (perhaps "fossil" is a better word) were made popular by someamazingly detailed and beautiful drawings made by German biologist Ernst Haekel.

I decided to take something very big (the final piece is milled out of a half size sheet (72"x30") of Corian) out of something that is very very small.  To get the desired relief pattern, I used a 3/4" V-bit endmill on the CNC mill so that the circle diameter had a linear relationship to the depth of the plunge.  Below are some process images showing the original source image and the step needed to take it into final fabrication using the ShopBot Writer definition I developed for this project.

Before I get too far, there are a few precedent projects that I would like to acknowledge.  The 'dimple halftone' pattern idea was a concept developed by Associated Fabrication and 4-pli and was published in Transmaterial 2MachineHistories has also made a series of beautiful panels that can be seen here.  The concept for the work below is inspired by these precedent projects, but the method through which it was employed is new and documented below. 

Cropped and zoomed-In on the image.

Cropped and zoomed-In on the image.

Gaussian Blur and Highlight Sampling (blur added to reduce noise in original image).

Gaussian Blur and Highlight Sampling (blur added to reduce noise in original image).

Grasshopper Approximation of Milling Pattern (automatically generates Shop Bot G-code in real-time).

Grasshopper Approximation of Milling Pattern (automatically generates Shop Bot G-code in real-time).

CAD/CAM Preview of Tool Path from Shop Bot Controller (simulation of final cut).

CAD/CAM Preview of Tool Path from Shop Bot Controller (simulation of final cut).

The Final Installed Piece (72"x30"x1/2").

The Final Installed Piece (72"x30"x1/2").

The image becomes more pronounced on the oblique.

The image becomes more pronounced on the oblique.


 The parametric process for this project was relatively straight forward. There have been many examples of patterns generated using the Image Sampler component, and this one is pretty similar to those, so I won’t go into great detail about how that part is set up. The Shop Bot Part file format (.sbp) is essentially just a text file with commands about how the machine should behave. The trickiest part on this entire project was learning the exact command prefixes that are needed to drive the machine.  Since these are proprietary (for the Shop Bot), the commands are slightly different than traditional g-code. I found two helpful manuals on the Shop Bot website.

With these two manuals as my guide, it was quite easy to setup the entire tool path part file. I found that the Weave component became very handy when joining together the movements needed for the plunges. I did have to write a little custom code to deal with the header file.  This header works for this specific application (using a V-bit 0.75" dia.) but might need some minor modifications if the method of milling were to change (such as surface milling, or profile cutting as opposed to direct plunging). Below are a few screen captures of the Grasshopper definitions.

Click to Enlarge.

The file is meant to be used for academic, and other non-profit institutions for non-commercial, non-profit internal research purposes. This file was created (and tested) in Grasshopper version (0.7.0055). Results may vary if using a different version.

Disclaimer: This file is provided by Andrew Payne | Lift Architects and is furnished "as is".  Any express or implied warranties, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are disclaimed.  In no event shall Andrew Payne be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, procurement of substitute goods or services; loss of use, data, or profits; or business interruption) however caused and on any theory of liability, whether in contract, strict liability, or tort (including negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of the use of this file, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.