Un/Folding Form : Masters Thesis


Un/Folding Form is my Masters Thesis project submitted in April and presented in August, 2011. The Thesis was a design investigation exploring the boundaries between the virtual and physical world. It was framed within the scope of using both digital fabrication and 3D stereoscopic projection as a tool for designing spaces that would mediate between 3D modelling software and physical form.

For my final composition I constructed a large polygon structure and projected through it with a 3D display, (yes the cool gimmicky 3D we loved in Avatar.) The visuals are an extension of the physical model tunneling into a virtual environment. It was a portal to the virtual world, and a play on the inter-relationship between virtual and physical space. The software allowed for the connection of a Wii Remote for fly-through interactive navigation. Unfortunately, I think it’s one of those things you enjoy much more in person.



After final documentation of the project was complete, I re-appropriated the use of part of the structure for a surface that could be projected on with interactive visuals. As part of the Interrupt Collective we used the fragments of the structure titled GeoPing as a submission for the LUX conference in Wellington New Zealand, a projection surface for a music show performed by Opiuo and a container installation for the Rugby World Cup in Auckland. Due to the organic nature of the form, and the interactive projections, GeoPing has seen critically acclaimed reviews and will see it’s final incarnation at a design festival in Singapore during March 2012. GeoPing Version 2 is currently under development for File: Electronic Language International Festival in Sao Paulo Brazil, between July and August 2012. Interrupt Collective: GeoPing / Opiuo


Abstract

This thesis project “Un/Folding Form” is a design investigation that explores the transition between the virtual representation and physical fabrication of folded forms. Un/Folding Form refers to a unified strategy for making and visualising in 3D. Un/folding was a method used to explore the notions of form, space and structure and to develop an adaptable approach to mediate between the virtual and physical world.
Designers who make and visualise in 3D need methods that allow for the prototyping of virtual designs in order to experience them physically. The development of a unified strategy that assists in closing the gaps between virtual representation and digital fabrication improves the designer’s understanding of the process of making, leading to more creative and resolved outcomes.

This research suggests that there are methods that can transition seamlessly between the virtual representation and physical reality of folded forms. The final composition presented in this thesis is a demonstration of this notion of working towards a seamless digital process of making. The 3D Portal can be used to assess the ‘seams’ between the virtual and the physical and validate a methodology for making and visualising in 3D.

In order to arrive at a unified strategy, the folding and unfolding of surface geometries was first explored through a series of physical experiments. These geometries were then 3D modelled and the surfaces manipulated digitally in order to create patterns for digital fabrication and physical reconstruction. The virtual representation of these folded designs was then investigated within a 3D stereoscopic projected environment. This involved the use of software to explore design interfaces to create immersive visual representations of physical forms. These series of experiments involved a process of moving back and forth between the virtual environment and physical form with the aim of moving closer towards a seamless transition between the two. This methodology was tested with the making of a final composition 3DPortal: a gateway to the virtual world and a play on the inter-relationship of 3D visualisation and its corresponding physical form. Thus, the focus of this thesis is twofold: to create an understanding of the process and evolution of design using folding as a technique; and to develop a methodology for designing a work using the folding technique.


TitleHeadersUnfoldingBook
Unfolding Form : The Book (Full Width Images)




The Thesis Book


Chapter 1 : Physical Folding – Paper Models: Form and Pattern Experiments

The properties and qualities of folding paper, modular components and organic patterned forms that could be cut and assembled together to form larger surfaces.


Chapter 2 : Digital Manipulations – 3D Models: Un/Folding Form

The Use of 3D CAD software to create folded forms that would be unfolded and nested together as a printable files for Laser cutting.


Chapter 3 : 3D Stereoscopic Environments – Interactive Spaces and Interfaces

The process of analyzing form, space and structure within an immersive 3D environment using wireless remotes to interactively fly through and around a design.


Chapter 4 : Final Composition – The 3D Portal

A composition consisting of the culmination of each of the previous 3 chapters presented as a design installation and 3D interactive experience.


Thesis Conclusion

This thesis project Un/Folding Form explored the transition between the virtual representation and the physical fabrication of folded forms. The aim was to create an understanding of the process and evolution of design using folding as a technique and to develop a unified strategy for designing a work using this technique.  The diagram below depicts the unified strategy that was used in this design investigation to develop a methodology to transition between the virtual representation and physical fabrication of folded forms.

The methodology involved crossing between different mediums of both physical and virtual making. It used the strategies identified through the experimentation of folding geometries and the interlinking of these processes with 3D immersive environments and digital fabrication techniques. The methodology was an iterative process that integrated the strategies in each stage of experimentation to refine and assist in the design process.

The final composition, the 3D Portal, used this methodology as a unified strategy to integrate the construction of a prototype with a virtual space.  It sought to combine two different realities (the physical and the virtual) within a single concept and through this, demonstrated the idea of working towards a seamless digital process of making.  A unified strategy assists in closing the gaps between virtual representation and digital fabrication.

This thesis took as its starting point the notion that folding surfaces would transition between virtual representation and the physical reality. The first stage of the design investigation was to explore the manual or physical making of form.  Experiments investigating the physical folding of paper were done to assess the properties of physically folded forms. Geometry and pattern, biomimicry and organics were key concepts which guided the development of the folded forms.  The resulting forms were tested for their fabrication and assemblage potential using CNC cut and assembly techniques to ensure the practicality of the output.

The second stage took the physical forms created through paper folding experiments and explored these through digital fabrication. Various digital techniques or mediums were used in this process.  3D mesh modelling using the computer software Blender created virtual objects from the physical forms.  Digital fabrication and in particular the unfolding of the digital form was developed through the use of the Pepakura software.  Again the practicality of these was tested through the application of CNC cut and assembly.

The third stage involved a further exploration of the interrelationship between the virtual and the physical through visually representing physically folded structures within 3D environments. The transition between making and visualisation was developed through the use of computer software and the Stereoscopic Model Viewer.  This provided the interface for a dual 3D projection system enabling a greater understanding of virtual representation of the physical form.

The output of this development process was a large scale prototype constructed to frame the entrance into the virtual world. The 3D Portal is a projection through a physical space onto a 2D screen. A 3D projection is displayed and the designer and their audience can immerse themselves within the 3D environment. The 3DPortal is a visualisation, presentation and integrated mode for design development. The aim was to engross the users within a visually immersive physical space and engage them with a virtual experience.  This experience increases the designer’s understanding of their own creation and provides a platform in which they can communicate to their audience.

The 3D Portal, a gateway to the virtual world, was a play on the inter-relationship of the 3D visualisation and its corresponding physical form.  The transition between the virtual and the physical would not have been possible without mediating between the different methods of making. The 3D Portal could be used to assess the seams between the virtual and the physical. Its construction and the final presentation validated the methodology developed in this research for making and visualising in 3D.

One of the most important findings of this thesis was that designing using a unified un/folding strategy could accurately convey a physical design as it was developed virtually. This was evident in the design of the final composition, the 3D Portal.

This research concludes that a unified strategy of un/folding can assist a designer throughout the design process and improves the designer’s understanding of the methods of making.  This ultimately results in more creative and resolved outcomes. It takes the abstract qualities of organic form and distils these within a mode of design that encompasses folding and unfolding and allows for the exploration of a range of digital manipulations and virtual representations.

The use of a unified strategy for making and visualising in 3D has potential design applications in areas beyond this thesis.  The application of a surface skin to contain or encapsulate something lends itself to the design of structures such as pavilions, which can showcase or shelter.  It has a versatility that may depend simply on the application, site and context for the desired effect.  Whether it is a pavilion, canopy, car port, exhibition enclosure, tent, greenhouse, building facade, architectural product, or sculpture, the strategy can help to provide structural integrity, functionality, and versatility and can be used to draw on the concepts of biomimicry and organics.

Through a unified strategy of making and visualising in 3D, this thesis has developed a pattern configuration that is versatile and adaptable enough to create a range of virtual and physical surfaces that will transition from 3D space into virtual 3D space and then back again. The unified strategy assists the design process as the designer can conceptualise in 3D the eventual physical construction of a design.  This allows errors to be removed prior to actual construction.  This can also help to minimise wastage of time and human and financial resources.  It supports the proposition that if people are going to make things physically they need methods in which to be able to prototype and visualise designs that give a designer a greater insight into the things they make before they make them.



Appendix Image
An image of part my office’s wall where I put up precedent images.

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