Carbon fiber + Tensile form + Robotics

MS-DT proseminar / studio

Taubman College A + U, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 2014

Instructor: Wes Mcgee


The material property of carbon fiber composite almost always requires a full-size mold to be built upon. This project tried to challenge this premise by building a carbon fiber piece on a flat surface first, then pull and sketch the form to its final shape.

First part of this project is to develop a script for “reverse-form-finding”: the final geometry of the piece was first established by regular form-finding process. Then it is pushed down onto a flat surface. The length of individual segments were kept unchanged, so the geometry tried to resolve itself by change the angles at each joint. With some manual tweaking, the angle changes were minimized, and the geometry for production was found.




Since the amount of angle change after flattening was the single biggest concern, various types of geometry was tested to see their application potential. The voronoi pattern had a overall smaller angle change than a rectilinear pattern.



Form finding of the final shape.



According to the digital simulation, after being fattened, the largest angle change will happen near the anchoring points.




The second part of this project is using robot and a custom-made “tool head” to hot-apply carbon fiber composite onto a flat surface. After various material experiments, aluminum foil was used as the material for contacting surface.

The tool head and the working surface.



Finished flat shape.



Final physical product. NO YOU CANNOT SIT ON IT!



The largest undesirable deformation happens around the four anchoring points on the top, which is consistent with digital simulation. The physical product proved that trying to twist carbon fiber composite this much is fighting with its material property. The practicality of this “flat method” still remains unproven. However, if this “flat method” is possible after all, it will indicate a new way of manufacturing / construction – both initial position and form of a component can be different from their final state.

<pdf995:D:---UMICH MS-DT---### ARCH700 ###project02illustrat


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