Many Molds

MIT 2020
Independent Fabrication Research

Advisor: Brandon Clifford

Within the discipline of design, questions surrounding materiality and related issues of embodied carbon and waste, often focus on the finished product or building. We ask, how many tons of concrete or steel went into the structure? What is the provenance of the timber cladding on the facade? There are, however, auxiliary materials on the building site and factory floor that are largely out of view, but deserving of consideration. The materials used to make the molds from which building components are cast fall into this category. This research explores the use of malleable materials, specifically non-hardening clay, in the mold making process to allow for reconfigurability and reuse of molding material. This research contributes to ongoing efforts surrounding the use of reconfigurable, and therefore reusable, materials in mold making. 

Materially reconfigurable molds, most notably sand molds, have been in existence since as early as the bronze age. More recently, wax and clay have been explored as reconfigurable molding materials. The plasticity of non-hardening clay causes it to deform in ways that are difficult to model. Therefore, research related to questions of material indeterminacy in digital fabrication also offered precedence for this work. Additionally, this project draws on earlier research related to the direct carving of a molding material with a robotic arm.