Fabripod Configurator Mockup is Live!


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Fabripod configutator mockup

This is a mockup of the lamp configurator I’m putting together for Fabripod, the company I’m starting that sells lamps. The mockup opens in a new window. Use the sliders on the left to control options like scale and materials. The resulting size and price is shown on the right. You cant buy laps with this configurator yet so the “make it” button doesn’t do anything yet. This is currently tested and working in firefox on both mac and windows. Its  working in chrome on windows, but not on mac (at least not on mine).

I’m still working out the kinks in the back end, so the pricing is not accurate yet. Stay tuned for the official release coming up soon! If you absolutely need to buy an Urchin lamp right now, check out the one size available in the Ponoko store!


Cabinet Wall Generator


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

This is a fun project I did for a friend who wanted to design a wall of cabinets with an integrated work surface. This definition takes lines on the ground as input and helps to compose a wall of individual doors, with sizes that you specify. Then it  projects a pattern be CNC cut into the doors. (cut it at Techshop or with 100k garages!)The pattern comes from an image that you add yourself so it could be anything. The example below used a photo of some shadows on the ground.

download the grasshopper file and rhino base file here

Chrysalis update: new reward level on Kickstarter!


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Great news!

I’m sure you have all see the previous posts about my Chrysalis project on kickstarter. Well Ponoko has been generous enough to offer $50 making vouchers to backers of Chrysalis who pledge $50 or more. That’s right: you support the Chrysalis project with $50 and you get a making voucher for the full $50 from Ponoko. Making vouchers are redeemable for all of the making services that Ponoko offers: laser cutting, CNC routing and 3D printing! For more information on making vouchers see this link.

If you’re already a backer, its easy to upgrade your pledge and add this reward: just log in to kickstarter, go to the Chrysalis project page, and click on “manage my pledge”.  If you’re not a backer yet, this is a great opportunity to support a great tool for makers, and do some making yourself as well!

this is what the package looks like when they deliver your parts!
and here’s what I made…. see more at www.fabripod.com

Chrysalis – Maker Stories #1


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 
What would you use Chrysalis for?

That’s the question I have been asking each person who has backed my project on kickstarter . Listed below are the best answers so far, in no particular order.  I will continue to post the really outstanding ones on this blog and onBIOS in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Quoted directly from kickstarter backers’ comments:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Cat in the Bag table by Filson Rohrbacher

Cat in the Bag table by Filson Rohrbacher

“My partner and I have designed a series of customizable furniture objects (http://www.filson-rohrbacher.com/atfab.html). We designed the furniture to be parametrically transformed, exported into 2D cut files, downloaded for local CNC fabrication, and finished and assembled by a user. We’ve managed to design transformations in Grasshopper, and are in the process of (slowly) making it happen with Processing. But, really, Chrysalis is our holy grail that would help us more immediately realize the co-design process that’s really important to us and the project.”

Anne Filson – Filson and Rohrbacher Architecture
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“I want to be able to visualize data sets in 3D to create data embodied objects. ”

-David Bellona, Brooklyn, NY
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“Community involvement in public architecture, is another purpose that comes to my mind. So say the city of SF was going to contract the construction of a new sculpture in the park, The designer could create the basic forms, materials, construction methods, etc., and allow the citizens to manipulate a few variables to taylor it more to their liking. The designer could then consider the possibilities from public input, and create a hybrid product from their considerations. A more democratic form of public works can be achieved this way. I would definitely pitch it to the city… once it exists.

-Slate Werner, Santa Barbara, CA
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Check out the Chrysalis project on kickstarter here

Chrysalis Update!


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

In response to overwhelming request to offer something more suited for the designer/maker, I’ve added the new “Collaborator” reward to my kickstarter project for $75.


Take this opportunity to show the world what you will make with Chrysalis, and drive more traffic to your site by linking to it from ours!

I’ve also reduced the price of my largest reward to $2500 from $5000! The “True Believer” includes implementation of a fully operational mass customization web app, hosted on the Fabripod site or on your own, and includes incorporation of one of the online maker APIs like Shapeways or Ponoko! It’s a pretty amazing deal!

Please spread the word about this new reward!

Link to project: http://t.co/aikHgFnz

Parking Day – with Studios Architecture and Holmes-Culley Engineers


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Chris Chalmers was recently approached by Studios Architecture to give a short grasshopper tutorial and offer digital fabrication consulting for their highly acclaimed installation for Parking Day 2011. This project used over 250 cardboard tubes from architectural plotter rolls, and  160 CNC-cut MDF connectors. We used Grasshopper to preview what the design would look like with a number of different car-shaped outlines. Grasshopper also output the number and size of  each type of piece we would need, so we had an accurate prediction of cost and CNC time for each variation.

here are some screen shots from the various designs we explored:

the Prius

the Hummer:

the compact SUV

and a screen shot of the connector pieces, laid out for CNC cutting at Techshop from a 4’x8′ sheet of MDF.

Finally, this project has gotten a lot of press! Congatulations to the Studios Team:

Anna deAnguera, Justin Glover, Brian Nee, Matthew Covall, Tanya Retherford and Andrew Clemenza (apologies if I’ve missed anybody)

and to Paul Roberts  and Bill Tremayne from Holmes-Culley Engineers






CNC friendly numbers in Rhino


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 


I have updated the script in this post to automatically replace any two digit text objects in a rhino file with custom blocks (two digits for numbers up to 99). Simply copy the blocks in the example file (numbers-function.rvb) into yours and run the script. If your digits are too far away from each other or overlapping, adjust the “dblKern” variable in the script. 
here are the updated files:
(remember to right-click and save-as)
Modify the blocks using the in-place block editorfrom rhino-Labs. Let me know what you make with this I’d love to see it!

Single-line fonts are the standard for laser cutting and CNC milling because they are more eficient to cut. Somebody correct me if I’m missing something here, but  it seems impossible to get a single-line font to appear in Rhino using the typical text tools. I’ve been doing quite a bit of CNC milling lately, so I used this technique to create single-line labels for my cut files by using pre-defined blocks instead of text.

ScreenHunter_03 Jul. 16 23.16
ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 16 23.10

The script is set up as a function so you can incorporate it into your scripts easily. To use it, you have to first import the rhino file with the text blocks into your file.  Then run the script and it will simply turn the text you want to use into the appropriate block and place it.

The beauty of this system is that you can make your own custom fonts! Just draw any shapes you want to represent your letters and numbers. Make them into blocks with the appropriate names (letterA, number 2 etc..), and the script will place them instead. Make sure they are 1 unit high in the current unit system (ie: 1 foot, 1 inch, 1 meter etc..)  for the sizing bit to work properly.

I’ve always thought that a system based on geometry like latin numerals or braile might  wok better than text for labeling parts. I’d love to see your experiments, please send them to me!

(remember to right-click and save-as)



New Parametric lamp prototype


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

This is the first of a series of lamps I plan to make available through mass-customization fabricator ponoko.com

The pattern can be laser-cut from a variety of materials on the ponoko site and shipped to the customer as a kit to be assembled at home.

See this lamp and others on the ponoko store as they become available.





Here is an example of a translucent wood veneer I am experimenting with as a possible material.



BIOS shortlisted in Trash-to-Treasure competition


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

A project designed and built by BIOS has been shortlisted in a competition called trash-to-treasure, put on by a group at RGU in Aberdeen called Tesseract!



Here’s the competition brief:
“We are asking you to design something beautiful and useful that uses material that are otherwise thrown away. How can your design change people’s attitude towards what is rubbish, and what we waste? We are looking for a creative and imaginative response, where new and innovative uses are found for items which are considered worthless. Being able to design using wasted materials can transform communities who have barely anything, so we would love to see your ideas, however crazy they might be.”

This project is described in More detail here: https://biosarch.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/aiasf-parametric-canopy/

Agent-based T-shirt design in Grasshopper


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Here’s a project I’ve been working on in my spare time (mostly while my 1Yr. old son is napping). Its an offshoot of some freelance work I did recently, making use of Grasshopper’s new timer component. The project uses this one as its starting point: the work of Dimitrie Stefanescu who adapted Craig Reynolds‘ “Boids” to run in grasshoper using C# .  Boids is an early example of an “agent based model” in computer science, which can be used to simulate the behavior of flocks or crowds.

I modified Stefanescu’s code and added some of my own to make the (now single) agent respond to trails left by previous runs. The idea was to create a kind of record of the agents’ simulated behavior. This way behavior  could be viewed statistically, as tendencies rather than individual actions in real time. It was a quick mod to turn the agents’ paths into a vector pattern, print it on transfer paper and iron-on. Voila!

click on the image above to see video.

SOFTlab’s CHROMAtex.me installation


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

This is not work made directly by BIOS members, but I thought I should post it because the folks and SOFTlab were kind enough to include a link to our blog in their earlier post. This is a gorgeous project and we at BIOS are proud to have played a small part (we posted a scriptthat was used in the fabrication).  Go SOFTlab!

link: http://softlabnyc.com/news/?p=1101

Admit it – We all know someone who could use an open-source laser cutter


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

You may have noticed a certain obsession with open-source and D.I.Y. technology in my posts of late. Right now is a watershed time for those (read – ME) who have always dreamed of fabricating complex projects at home. We at BIOS are excited to see what happens as the movement picks up steam. For example, our recent project ‘coloniatechne‘ was designed around tapping the open-source home 3D printer community and inviting them to take an active role in designing and fabricating a major part of the project.

Well, the 3D-print and 3-axis CNC movements are in full swing, its time the inevitable next step happened: The Open-Source Laser-Cutter! Check out the project on kickstarter and consider donating $10 (I did). In return, you’ll get first access to plans and beta software. One step closer to making just about anything in your garage!

Colonia Techne – Beginnings

If only finishing old projects was as fun as starting new ones!!

We have started prototyping the components of our Colonia Techne project for the City of San Jose (described here). Walter Kim, who is working with us on the 3D printing, took this video of his Cupcake CNC extruding a test print for our polyp component, pictured below.

I also took this video of a breadboard prototype of the arduino-speaker-mic-LED combination we plan to run the interactive component. Here, I blow on the mic to generate sound. When mic volume reaches the threshold  (set using Arduino’s native programming interface), it lights the LED.

Next steps are to print our polyps full scale on our own Reprap CNC (currently in the mail), and to integrate the tri-color LED and speaker into the Arduino.  Watch this space!

RoCocoa installation at SFE’s Eco-Center


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

Thursday January 14th was the second gallery opening for an exhibition called  ReVisions: New Creations From Scrap and featured a lot of great artwork made from recycled materials. BIOS was invited to install a site-specific piece called RoCocoa, which was made from leftover chocolate trays salvaged from the Joseph Schmidt chocolate factory. Joseph Schmidt closed its SF doors last summer and we are always sad to see events that might lead to less chocolate in the world, but we decided to make the best of a bittersweet situation. Ha! Ok Ok, no more puns: here are some photos of the opening. See the previous post about the event’s first opening at the Remake Lounge.

…And a walk-through video of the piece.

Its a fun show with many beautiful and interesting pieces, and will be up until January 29th. Here are just a few of the other pieces: Sorry I don’t have names for the artists! You’ll just have to go and see them in person.

ReVisions exhibition – Scrap SF


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

BIOS has two upcoming  installations in the 3rd annual ReVisions art exhibition.  The exhibition is organized by San Francisco’s  Scroungers Center for Reusable Art Parts (SCRAP) and will run from 12-11-09  to 1-29-2010.

BIOS will be installing pieces at both of  the exhibition’s two simultaneous venues: First, the ReMake Lounge in the Crocker Galleria  50 Post St. SF, will feature a re-installation of BIOS’ cup canopy, made from salvaged plastic beer cups (concept images below).

Second, in the Eco-Center, on the ground floor of the San Francisco Department of the Environment offices  11 Grove St. SF, will feature an immersive surface made of salvaged chocolate box inserts (from SCRAP) reclaimed from the recently closed Joseph Schmidt chocolate plant. No we didn’t eat all those chocolates! (concept images below)

There will be two openings, first at the ReMake Lounge on Friday December 11th from 6-8pm, and second at the Eco Center on Thursday January 14th from 5:30-7:30pm. See http://www.scrap-sf.org/ for more info.

We hope to see you there!!

Disoriented Strands


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 


This project is an exploration of Statics vs. Statistics. That is to say it is a refutation of the ideal “truss” structure, which is statically determinate, in favor of alternatives based on a logic of statistical probability. While the logic of the truss is very efficient, it is not necessarily the most effective for unpredictable load patterns. The statistical approach, in which material is allocated according to where stress is most likely to occur, is closer to the structural logic that has evolved in living systems.

Fiber structures are common in Nature. Monodirectional structures such as bones or tree trunks use oriented fibers to resist axial loads . Multidirectional structures, like those shown below, use fibers in a random pattern to resist multiple loads. They often act as membranes because they can deform without  breaking.  Their resiliency  is due, in part, to the redundancy of their overlapping members.

melon rind
type I collagen

These structures are called statically indeterminate because it is  impossible to determine the load path using statics: the hand calculations that have been used by structural engineers since the 1800’s. Today we have computers and nonlinear analysis to solve for complex structures, but buildings are still designed and constructed in terms of  the old methods.  In the words of Karl Chu: “Architecture has still yet to incorporate the architecture of computation into the computation of architecture” *

The goal of this project is to create a building method that  relies on redundancy and statistical probablity as a structural  logic instead of efficiency and static determinacy.   I used  Grasshopper to create a randomized fiber membrane on a base surface in the following steps:

ScreenHunter_06 Oct. 22 10.29

First, points are located on the surface using a probability algorithm in which areas of  higher curvature are more likely to be populated (surface is color-coded for gaussian curvature in these screenshots). This should yeild a higher density of material in those areas.

ScreenHunter_08 Oct. 22 10.45
Next, the points are used as origins for randomly oriented strips of material based on “plank line” geometry (see earlier post), which conforms to the curvature of the surface but can be fabricated using perfectly straight strips of  material.

ScreenHunter_09 Oct. 22 11.33

Finally, the length of the strips  is set to achieve the proper overlap. Individual strip lengths adjust to curvature as well: shorter pieces where curvature is more intense. Holes are placed at the intersections for attachment and the strips are unrolled for fabrication.

This project is designed to address structural requirements in a statistical manner rather than a determinant one. That is to say without exhaustive analysis of the stresses in each member. As in many living systems, more material is allocated where more stress is most likely to occur, and where more strength is needed to maintain the surface’s intended shape.

This method could be modified by adding structural analysis of the base surface instead of simple curvature analysis.  Finite element analysis programs like NASTRAN or ANSYS will analyze a simple shell and output a deformation map similar to the curvature map shown here. All that is needed is to apply the bitmap to the surface, then vary point density by color, rather than by the native curvature graph.

ScreenHunter_05 Oct. 22 10.17 basket

*For an insightful analysis of design/construction paradigms in flux,  see Karl Chu’s essay: “The Metaphysics of Genetic Archtecture” in Arquitecturas Geneticas-II

melon rind

Unrolling Surfaces in Grasshopper


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

This Grasshopper definition is proof of concept for a VB component that unrolls developable surfaces to the XY plane. To make the component, I’ve adapted a rhinoscript by Andrew Kudless (of Matsys) to run in VB, enlisting the help of CCA student Ripon DeLeon to write the code.This example uses the VB component to create unrolled surfaces from 4 curves that I have distorted using the cage edit command in rhino. To use the definition on your own projects, simply choose any 4 curves to loft between in sequential order.

The blocks of components are grouped somewhat clearly (I hope) so you can add more curves by copy-pasting more blocks and making the few required re-connections to make it work.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

download the definition here:unroll3.ghx
and the rhino base file here: unroll test.3dm

For the above definition, I’ve added tabs along the edges of the unrolled surfaces for ease of attachment. The benefit of using a WYSIWYG tool like Grasshopper for fabrication planning is that you can make quick decisions about parameters like tab spacing or sheet layout visually, as you design. If you use this definition for your own projects, send me a short description. I’d love to see what you make out of it!

The unrolled shape is about 96% accurate (judged by difference in surface area between unrolled and original surfaces). This seems to be fine for simple paper models, but would cause serious problems in more complex structures. I would appreciate feedback from any of you who care to take a look at the VB component and offer suggestions on how to make it more accurate.

AIASF Parametric Canopy Install Photos


 posted by Chris Chalmers, Fabripod 

see more photos at our flickr site!


the cable mesh was designed using a grasshopper definition that Chris wrote to calculate resultant vectors for all the backstays, and output cable lengths to an excel spreadsheet.

ScreenHunter_02 Sep. 15 00.45


volunteers used these laminated cards to arrange the cups on the canopy in an algorithmic pattern…P9110012

which actually worked out pretty well!