Work completed with the aid and talent of Dyani Robarge, Rachel Sung, and Marnfah Kanjanavanit. Supervised by Professor Jeremy Ficca

The TactAl installation, which was on display in Carnegie Mellon Universities College of Fine Arts Building from April 14-26 2017, is the manifestation of three months of refinement and production from work begun in the fall of 2016 for Fabrication Customization, a course intended to find bespoke ways of creating architectural material affects using robotic tools. Partnered with CENTRIA, who provided the aluminum used for research and development as well as the final piece, the installation serves to be not only as an expressive sculptural piece, but is regarded as a prototype for robotically formed metal facade panels which could translate to architectural cladding systems. Utilizing a process called incremental forming, geometry generated by the students was translated into software that described tool paths for a robotic arm connected to a stylus tool, which then slowly pushed into the metal, deforming it and capitalizing on the metals high degree of ductility forming the shapes seen below. Approximately 24' long and 7.5' high, and comprised of 32 robotically formed panels the TactAl wall is the largest object produced and installed by the School of Architectures Digital Fabrication Lab to that date. 

Surface Topography Analysis

Surface Topography Analysis


As expressed in the videos below, the production of the TactAl wall panels utilized both digital and analogue creation means. The series of aluminum panels were first notched by hand to create seams onto which the panels would later be break formed to provide the returns used to stabilize the panel but to also connect individual panels together. The panels after notching, were then robotically formed with the delicate line-work seen in the final piece with the use of a spring loaded stylus tool and utilizing a wooden support piece to ensure maximum and consistent contact. Once he line work was drawn, the panels were then drilled with holes to be later used for bolted assembly connections, and then break formed to provide returns on the panels four sides. Finally the panels were then placed into the support jig and incrementally formed to completion. 

Panel Notching 

Linework GoPro Capture

Linework Forming 

Panel Drilling

Panel Break Forming 

Panel Fixturing, Oil, and Incrimental Forming 

Fixture, Robot Track and Forming 


For the most part, the fabrication process went rather smoothly until we began incrementally forming. What began to arise was what the team described as "chattering" which is the result of the speed and stretch direction of the metal beginning to cause wobbling in the forming, creating ripples in the surface. To minimize this effect, it was found that reducing speed in areas where chatter began to register, began to eliminate the problem. As such, every panel produced for the piece was meticulously monitored and had the speed manually adjusted on every pass to ensure a minimizing of chatter effect. 

Manual Adjustment of Speed to Reduce Chatter


The metal panels were then affixed to a pre milled MDO waffleframe through bolted connections and shim washers to ensure a more consistent spacing. The frame was built in a series of four parts which could be lifted and transported separate to facilitate movement onto a truck vehicle as well as to move the piece out of the fabrication space to the install site in the College of Fine Arts.  



The piece opened to a reception of food and friends on Friday April 14 and remained installed until the 26, eliciting curiousity and touch from people passing by. 


To establish the installation as a solid object in the space, the back was covered in white skim and affixed to the piece using subtle placed staples. The scrim was used as a canvas to project process videography to give the public an understanding of the processes that took place to make TactAl a reality as well as to highlight the robotic forming process.