I recently returned from a week long digital fabrication course at the Soniphorm Workshop in Gweedore, Donegal. Soniphorm is a project of Ed Devane and encompasses his work as a designer and maker or experimental musical devices and art installations.
The course saw us looking at common digital fabrication techniques with Ed providing insight into particular ways of working which he has found helpful. I got the impression that there wasn’t a fixed plan for the workshop, rather that Ed was wanting to work collaboratively with us, exploring various digital fabrication techniques when the opportunity presented itself.
The first day involved us all getting to grips with Fusion 360. Ed stated that Autocad was perhaps an easier tool to use for 2D drawing, however he decided it was best to focus on Fusion as it was useful to be able to create both 2D and 3D designs within the same environment. We began by designing a small box. We intended to fabricate the box from 3mm MDF, using the laser cutting machine. There were six sides to the box, assembled using finger joints. I had created similar enclosures in the past using boxes.py a parametric web-based tool. These boxes were fabricated at Belfast’s Fablab from 3mm plywood. I have to say that I prefer this material, not just aesthetically but also due to the fact that it appears to be more robust. I also remember reading in ‘Green Living in the Urban Jungle’ that MDF releases toxic fumes at room temperature which has always put me off using it. Still, nontheless it was still interesting to explore its use as a material for fabrication.
I was pleasantly surprised at how straightforward it was to create fingerjoints in Fusion 360, mainly due to the pattern tool. Boxes.py is a fantastic tool, however, it’s apparent that Fusion 360 will provide a lot more flexibility in designing enclosures in the future.
Prior to sending our first design iterations to the laser cutter they were imported into Autocad. The ‘overkill’ tool was used to ensure that the laser didn’t cut more times than necessary. Seemingly the final design was opened in CorelDRAW prior to being sent to the laser cutter.
Once fabricated we discussed what the box might be used for, then subsequently added a speaker mount. Ed talked us through transforming the box further so that it formed one end of an open spring reverb unit. More pieces were cut, including the base of the device. Ed showed us a joinery technique which used bamboo skewers (as you might purchase from a supermarket) as dowels for attaching various MDF panels together. The dowels were tapped into their corresponding holes using a mallet and then cut to size with a crosscut saw – a tool I hadn’t come across before.