How to: Design to Fabricate (with example)



What do you observe in these photos? That’s right! That cell-like pattern seems to be commonly found in nature. But, ‘what’ is this pattern? How do Biomimetic Architects replicate this in their designs? How can we create it parametrically? Heads up! Today we’ll be generating Voronoi Diagrams, and that’s what they are called (mathematically speaking).

Design to Fabricate — What is it?

One of the major challenges while building a computer-generated design, is we might not have access to the right set of tools. We do have workarounds and hacks, but sometimes it doesn’t work, we move back to something that we can do, with the tools we have. I believe, we can still get a taste of these high-tech designs without selling a kidney(or two). I believe if we Design to Fabricate — deciding the fabrication method upfront; we can pursue our dream designs. How I did that for this project, is that I knew I was going to mimic a CNC cutter using a hand drill. I ended up improvising on the way.

Incase you missed it, feel free to check my previous article where I’ve explained exactly that: Why we need the parametric approach in our design processes.

But, first things first. ‘This pattern seems easy to draw. Why the parametric approach? How does it make our task easier?’

The Parametric approach is faster and flexible. Without further ado, let’s dive right into how to actually bring this design into the real world.

“… the core structure would be the mathematical principle (algorithm) … the parameters would be the size / shape of the panel… “

We know that any parametric design has two components: A core structure and a list of parameters. In our case; the core structure would be the mathematical principle(algorithm)— based on which we’ll be creating the Voronoi cells; the parameters would be the size/shape of the panel, along with a few other options for us to modify.

Voronoi Generator — iterations by Kaushik

To make things easier for you(or if you’re lazy today), I’ve uploaded the file, feel free to try it out and let me know your feedback.

WARNING: Foam dust is highly injurious to health. Kindly make sure you’re using necessary equipment to avoid inhaling. (wear a mask and use vacuum)

I’ve used 3mm thick foam board, cut to size: 100mm x 150mm (4″ x 6″) as the primary material. I also used my (not-a-dentist)dad’s old dental drill(He has crazy hobbies) for this project. With these, this is how I did what I did.

  1. Set necessary parameters inside Grasshopper, Bake geometry.
  2. Plot(Print) the pattern onto a paper(A4) of your choice.
  3. Paste it onto the foam board, and start cutting. (If you have access to a hot-wire cutter, or any rotary tool, you’re life might just become easier. Else, A heated blade would do the job — might take a while though.)
  4. Sand it for better finishing.
Left: Using a Hand Drill to cut the pattern | Right: ModelProgression
WARNING: Foam dust is highly injurious to health. Kindly make sure you’re using necessary equipment to avoid inhaling. (wear a mask and use vacuum)


The idea came out well. Inspite of making the pattern a bit large, it was tiring to cut the pattern manually, (and also clean up later). I would definitely prefer working with CNC / Laser Cutter on plywood for a better finish.

I’ve pasted a sheet of (notebook) wrapper on the rear, to give it a translucent look, to mimic a window of sorts.

Special notes:

How can I fabricate this in the real scale?

It is going to be the same process. Depending on your requirement(s);

  1. Try changing the various parameters (shape, no. of points, scaling factor, etc.)
  2. The boundary is optional, I’ve included making it easier to hold/attach the panel onto something.
  3. Fillet corners, to achieve an organic feel.

Generate the pattern, fabricate on your favorite material: Sheet metal art, Plywood false ceiling, Acrylic Panel, Etch on window glass, Vinyl stickers for your skateboard, your imagination is the limit.

Most important of all! Don’t forget to have fun fellas!

Further Reading & Useful Resources:

TechnologyScienceNatureParametric DesignArchitecture

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