Could you talk about your current workflow, what are the latest technologies you adopt in your works? Do you use data, digital twins and AI to drive digital fabrication?
Today we use digital data continuously but mostly to design fabrication strategies to drive tools. We still think of it as nothing more than another tool in the shop. But just like any tool, it takes a lot of skill to use it properly. Too many folks think that because it’s a CNC machine or robot, it’s going to “do the work for you”. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the years have gone by, we’ve tried to stay on the leading edge of fabrication without falling over the cliff. Today our new shop on Mare island has a very large 5 axis CNC gantry, two Comau 6 axis robots on a 75 foot linear track that we use for sanding panel surfaces. We also have two or three laser trackers for QC and fabrication alignment, and are building a CNC controlled coating sprayer and a rotating table to tilt façade panels to the proper orientation on a building to verify their position. We’ve not gotten into AI although I can see where it might help in learning how to perform complex tasks that repeat but on different shapes and with different variables such as material density. I guess that’s next.
Could you describe a recent project where data and digital fabrication played a crucial role to achieve the design result?
Although any of our projects could be done by skilled craftsmen using traditional tools, some would take decades to do and nobody could or would want to pay for them. The digital tools allow us to offer work that is commercially impossible to do otherwise. The result is that we need more and more people, all craftsmen in this new era where traditional craftsmanship combines with 21st century digital craftsmen to create unique projects such as the Tulsa Pavilion we just finished, or the walls on the Zaha Hadid tower in Miami.
What do you think will be the future evolution in the use of data and digital fabrication in the design fields?
Just like any tool, digital tools will continue to evolve and serious craftsmen will continue to learn more and better ways to use them. Digital tools are no more or less than another way to get work done. In the hands of a true craftsman, a table saw can perform amazing feats. The same is true with digital tools, which will continue to evolve and continue to allow digital craftsmen to accomplish even increasingly amazing feats.