Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Elbo Chair – Designed With The Help Of Algorithms

Wired reports: [edited]

THE ELBO CHAIR is unusual piece of furniture.Arthur Harsuvanakit and Brittany Presten of Autodesk’s generative design lab created the chair, but they didn’t design it.

Harsuvanakit and Presten collaborated with Dreamcatcher, Autodesk’s generative design CAD system. They fed the software a digital, 3-D model of a chair inspired by Hans Wegner’s iconic Round Chair and the Lambda Chair, from the design studio Berkeley Mills. Then, they stipulated how much weight the chair must support and insisted that the arms clear a human body. With that, Dreamcatcher started iterating.

The software churned out hundreds of designs, optimising as it went. It shaved dead weight and adjusted joint placement to improve load-bearing abilities, creating thinner, more intricate structures. “It gets bonier as the iterations go higher,” Harsuvanakit says. “It’s cool to let it go too far — some of them look like bug skeletons to me.” Every so often, he and Presten would pick a design, and the software would propagate a new lineage based on their selection.

Harsuvanakit calls the Elbo a collaboration between human and machine. Dreamcatcher might spin out solutions a designer might not think of, but at a certain point the human mind overrides the algorithm. The look and feel of the final object did not originate in the designer’s mind, but it requires his sign-off.

The Elbo is CNC-milled from wood. This posed new challenges. Dreamcatcher’s materials library doesn’t include wood so Harsuvanakit and Presten designated 'nylon', which Harsuvanakit says is the most suitable ringer for walnut wood.

The final design performs well. The Elbo has 18 percent less material than the hybrid model the designers started with, and shows fewer signs of stress in its joints.

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