Beyond the Surface

The Behaviour of Digital Materials.


Clay doesn’t always want to be digitally precise. Automation often treats all materials as a quasi “non”material–as a digital material without material behaviour-how it deforms, its moisture, how it forms ridges and builds up, how it sticks to the tool or peels off. There is no digital simulation for the material behaviour of clay during the stages of robotic arm programming. The result of such processes can often make digitally or mechanically produced ceramic elements feel cold and lifeless.  Instead, Haptek Lab is invested in developing the tactility of clay (and all its material behaviours and eccentricities) as a digital material. The marks of the robotic arm are less governed by its movements, but rather how the clay responds to it.  A series of repeated motions can produce controlled and repeated material responses, which in turn produce an automatic and mass customizable image. Because the robotic arm uses 6-axes of movement, multiple tools can be embedded within one effector tool, rotated, and applied to the extrusion, producing a gradient of markings, textures, densities, and thicknesses to ultimately produce a tactile and haptic image–capable of operating at many scales. 

Thus, through the robotic arm, we aim to offer a new method to embed tactile and haptic qualities of handbuilt ceramic artworks into both digital design and fabrication, but also to BVTC’s mechanical and industrial fabrication processes.

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Project Team

Errol Willet, Jonathon Anderson, Clare Olsen, Naomi Frangos

Industry Partenership

Boston Valley Terracotta, Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop 2020

Research Team

Georgia Barrington, Amy Yan, Reese Young