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HOME > No.12, Feb 2018 > Utilizing Digital Fabrication Tools to Enjoy Designing Chairs with Parents and Children

Utilizing Digital Fabrication Tools to Enjoy Designing Chairs with Parents and Children

Open the possibilities of woodworking to local communities with digital fabrication tools by means of a computer-aided design system that anyone can easily operate By Akihiro Mizutani
Assistant Professor Kojiro Matuo (1st from right, 2nd raw) with his laboratory members
Mizutani (Back) and children who participated in the workshop.

The 3D CAD system, which can design 3D chairs by a simple operation, developed by Mizutani, a lecturer of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, is developed in such a way that anyone can easily operate it. The chair-making workshop was designed so that parents and children can enjoy making chairs together using the digital fabrication of the system. In the chair-making workshop: (1) The parents and children design the original chair that matches the child's figure, (2) the miniature model is processed and produced with the laser cutter, and (3) the actual product is processed with the CNC router. This ICT-applied technology could revolutionize aspects of future society. We expect a personal manufacturing revolution to open up new possibilities for the local community, applying such digital fabrication tools.

In recent years, digital fabrication tools, such as laser cutters and CNC routers, which had previously only been used by industry, have been developed into individual manufacturing facilities as tools available for personal use. Diffusion of such digital fabrication has dramatically changed the opportunities for manufacturing by individuals. It is also becoming apparent that the creation of a community centered on manufacturing can be carried out by networking on the Web and SNS. Our activities are aimed at building regional communities where manufacturing and community formation is actively performed using such digital fabrication. We designed chair making workshops specifically focused on children and their guardians with the goal of targeting citizens who have had little involvement in manufacturing and digital fabrication so far.

In the chair-making workshop: (1) The parents and children design the original chair that matches the child's figure, (2) the miniature model is processed and produced with the laser cutter, and (3) the actual product is processed with the CNC router. The original chair is designed and processed using a 3D CAD system (Fig. 1), which can design a 3D shaped chair through a simple operation I developed.

Fig.1 Interface of 3DCAD system developed independently by Mizutani

This unique 3D CAD system has been devised so that anyone can operate it easily, and in the chair-making workshop, parents and children can enjoy making a digitally fabricated chair using that system. Specifically, it is possible to design a 3D chair simply by manipulating the three lines that determine the elevation shape: the inner diameter line, the outer diameter line, and the seat surface/back plate range line. Normally, in order to manufacture something by digital fabrication, you need to first acquire basic techniques such as how to operate the 3D CAD. This kind of hurdle tends to lead to people giving up before they ever get to the fun part of actual design and manufacture. This workshop aims to overcome such hurdles by going the opposite way from the normal process, and starting with the pleasurable aspects of design, processing and production,. By making the experience more accessible and enjoyable, it is hoped that we can widely disseminate manufacturing by digital fabrication.

Fig.2 Cutting by CNC router (upper left), detail of fitting part (upper right), manual filing work (lower left), picture of the workshop (lower right)

Complex curve shape processing and fitting parts in free 3D shapes are difficult processing even for craftsmen, but with digital fabrication tools, even beginners without professional knowledge and skills can process them. Details of the fitting parts, uniquely determined by the design and the size of the wood used, can be generated semi-automatically by using the 3D CAD system (Fig. 2). In other words, it is possible to operate it without having to bother too much with the bulk of the simple repetitive work, which relies on the machines’ strong point of accurate processing by numerical control. This allows people more energy to focus on creativity and fine handwork, our forte as human beings. What is special about our activity is the degree to which it makes previously remote technology so accessible, such as advanced woodworking production, digital fabrication and the independently-developed 3D CAD system.

We expect that the experiences at the chair-making workshop applying this digital fabrication will become the first step toward constructing local manufacturing communities, and the accumulation of these small steps will eventually become a major force connecting society as a whole. Technology using ICT has opened the doors to the future. We believe that an individual centred manufacturing revolution, applying such digital fabrication technology, will open up new possibilities for local communities.

A part of this activity was supported by Toyohashi City’s next-generation manufacturing R&D promotion subsidiary aid.


By 水谷 晃啓








朝日新聞「豊根杉でマイ椅子を作ろう」2017年5 月27日付朝刊、三河13(31)

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Researcher Profile

Tsuneo Nitta
Name Akihiro Mizutani
Affiliation Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering
Title Lecturer
Fields of Research Architectural Design / Architectural Planning/ Urban Design