Mass Migration is a fabrication process for custom sculptural surfaces that makes use of fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) over integral EPS foam molds—a process similar to surfboard construction. Typically, these types of surfaces rely on the production of subtractively milled molds, which are incredibly wasteful: hours of machine time, a great deal of waste, and formwork is ultimately discarded. Mass Migration makes use of parametric geometries and simple robotic fabrication methods to strategically redistribute EPS formwork into a continuous mass in which mass, surface, aperture, and ornament are fully interdependent, without producing any EPS waste. The EPS formwork is retained within the FRP shell as structure and insulation, creating a lightweight and water-tight Structural Insulated Panel (SIP). This process can be adapted to a variety of formal languages. It is currently being developed as a large scale building envelope system.
Mass Migration’s zero-waste formwork operates on a few basic principles: 1) Each hotwire cut through the EPS foam block simultaneously creates the back of one blank, and the front of the next; 2) In order to maintain surface continuity from one blank to the next, the “left” control curve for each cut must match the “right” control curve of the next; 3) In order to create an aperture in the panel (as well as an adjacent bulge, and an adjacent surface relief), two or more adjacent control curves must intersect.
These principles can easily be demonstrated by hand cutting a block of foam, but an intentional or meaningful application of them is prevented by the complex interrelationships and sequence of operations that determine the final product. Grasshopper is used to translate 2D control curves to 3D ruled surfaces to volumetric blanks to an assembled panel, allowing the designer to get real-time feedback on a finished wall assembly by manipulating a few control points. This allows rapid iterative testing of different formal languages, different expressions of the same formal language, and simulation of environmental factors such as daylighting and air flow.
For a detailed description of the process behind Mass Migration, visit Instructables.
Research assisted by Cal Poly Architecture students Andrew Minnich and Lizzy Miller (B.ARCH '17)