Tectonic Horizons is a modular component system that exploits the hybridization between digital fabrication techniques and traditional ceramic processes, specifically slip casting. Ceramic slip casting creates hollow vessels with precise details and is used in the production of everything from porcelain figurines and tableware to larger objects such as toilets and sinks.
Tectonic Horizons investigates the potential for digital techniques to impact the fabrication process as well as their effect on form, implying larger scales of architectural space and landscape. Rather than using a physical model or pattern to cast plaster molds, these forms initially exist only as virtual models. The negative form is directly milled into plaster blanks eliminating the analog process of mold-making. The absence of any 'real' physical model liberates the precision of fabrication from expectations of fidelity to this original 'model' of perfection. Instead, process (e.g. CNC routing) gains a stronger role in determining the form and performance of the final object. This interlocking system of slip-cast ceramic modules takes advantage of the texture created by the machining process to channel vision from the striated exterior surfaces towards intricate interior spaces.
While each cast from the mold is identical, a series of post-process cutting operations embeds a new layer of differentiation into each piece. This investigation into the opportunities of hybridizing the processes of ceramic slip-casting and CAD/CAM manufacturing questions the traditional mold-making process by integrating contemporary notions of mass customization with the economies of scale inherent in mold/cast systems. The process capitalizes on the potential of one mother-mold to create a family of casts that are then differentiated through a set of subtractive modifications. Produced in residence at the European Ceramic Workcentre (EKWC)
Parametric Modeling: Andrew Heumann
Digital Mold Fabrication: Frank Parish
Ceramic Casting: Winston Nanlohy
- The geometry was designed to incorporate a two-part mold with a simple planar parting plane perpendicular to the z-axis, but this slowly became more complex as the design progressed. The back side was originally perfectly flat (which would have allowed for one milled mold part with a simple slab of plaster (or a plaster bat) as the other mold part. Once the mounting channel was designed into the back side of the module, it became necessary to produce two custom mold halves with a modified parting surface.
- Both mold parts were milled out of one plaster blank (which was later cut in half with a band saw). In order to optimize use of milling time, the surfaces for milling were analyzed to understand necessary degrees of smoothness (any surface which would meet another surface would need to be as smooth as possible or the liquid slip would spill out through the gaps). Three degrees of surface resolution were identified: 1 blue) interface surfaces which are planar and parallel to the milling bed; 2 red) interface surfaces which are non-planar or not parallel to the milling bed; 3 g) all other surfaces. Type 1 required high resolution (perfect smoothness) which was easy and quick to achieve with a flat-end milling tool at a high step-over (similar to what would be used for rough cuts). Type 2 required high resolution which could only be achieved through a ball-end tool which necessitated a very tight step-over to minimize scalloping. Type 3 had no requirements in terms of mold interface which meant that surface qualities could be determined by primarily aesthetic concerns. A deep scalloping was introduced parallel to the channel of the back face. This striated texture would draw the eye into the internal spaces of the neighboring module.
- Milling the plaster blank
- Milling during rough cut process.
- Completed rough cut.
- Tiled modules.
- Axonometric view demonstrating mounting system.