Recent technological advancements, cheaper machines and more efficient manufacturing processes, have expanded accessibility to smaller companies, private individuals, as well as students. A wider usage of digital and data-driven design processes resulted in the mainstream application of digital fabrication in the fields of architecture and design. It not only allows the production of customized parts and complex geometries, but also reliable and repeatable production, in a digitally connected world.


In the Introductory to Digital Fabrication Seminar, the Master in Advanced Architecture students are being prepared for their studies at IAAC, where digital manufacturing will be widely used for geometric exploration, visualization and prototyping. The introductory seminar focuses on performance and efficiency of a wide array of selected materials within digital manufacturing processes, including CNC milling, laser cutting and 3D printing.

The course enables the students to delve into the capabilities and limitations of each manufacturing process through creating a three-dimensional geometry, exploring each machine one by one at a time. This year, the conceptual task was to create a recursive module that could be aggregated in space, as a chain of infinite references of itself. Each produced prototype encompassed at least one of these recursions and demonstrated the feasibility of the chosen aggregation strategy.

To achieve that, a joinery system had to be developed for each of the three processes. Each of the machines offered its own opportunities for that investigation. Due to the different manufacturing restrictions of each process, it was necessary to come up with an individual approach to each exercise. The geometry did not have to be applied in an architectural context, however, each of the produced constructive systems allows for further interpretation and possible future application.

Laser cutting

  • Machines: Epilog Legend Ext 75W and Rayjet r500
  • Restrictions: Only selected materials. 1h cutting time. Bed size: 900×600 or 1300×900. No glue.

The challenge of the laser cutting exercise consisted in creating a three-dimensional object from a flat material. Each group chose from a selected palette of materials to produce their module. To escape the two-dimensional space, different strategies were used, such as bending a flexible material, making a stiff material bendable through perforation or the usage of friction joints.

CNC milling

  • Machines: ShopBot ATC PRS Alpha and TRex S-1215
  • Restrictions: Specific materials. 1h milling time. Specific milling bits.

CNC milling offers more geometric freedom than laser cutting through the manipulation of the Z-axis, creating different heights for the cuts. Therefore, three-dimensional shapes can already be formed during the cutting process. Unlike the laser, there are different milling bits, whose thickness needs to be considered in the machining strategy. Most groups either decided on a 2 axis strategy, similar to laser cutting, or a 3 axis strategy.

3D Printing

  • Machines: Zortrax M200 and Zortrax M200+
  • Restrictions: Only ABS filament. 4 hours printing time.

Compared to laser cutting and CNC milling, 3D printing is an additive process. There were few geometric restrictions for the exercise and almost any shape could be printed. The task was more specific than for the other two machines. Every group had to print nodes that would be used to assemble an abstract volume, with the help of 2mm rods. The 4 hour printing time was the biggest challenge, as it forced students to thoroughly optimize their print settings and support placement.

Full documentation can be found at IAAC Blog.

The projects were developed at the Master in Advanced Architecture (MAA01 2021/22) by: 

Students: Michael Joseph Groth, Perniyal Waseem, Stanislas Jean Yves Thierry Marie Naudeau, Vaibhav Krishnachandra Toshniwal, Aishwarya Shama Sunder Rajendra Prasad, Gizem Demirkiram, Mara Luisa Müller-de Ahna, Federico Caldi, Tanvee Suhas Joshi, Zachary Eisenberg, Akshay Madapura, Charicleia Iordanou, Furio Magaraggia, Disha Dineshchandra Shetty, Jack Davis, Valentina Minoletti, Alessandra Carlini Weiss, Luca Paul Lino Wenzel, Neha Jayanth Pattanshetti, Cansu Kilinç, Rachel Rose Busche, Victor Iñaki Engelhard Suarez, Ariadna Giménez Lorente, Preetam Srinivaspuram Prabhakar, Rahma Mohamed Hassan, Diego Vazquez de Santos, Kingsley Claudin Jacob Jayaseelan, Neslihan Gülhan, Aaron Jude Pereira, Emily Rackstraw, Mira Housen, Jett Demol, Marta Navarro López, Yue Wu, Angelo Desole, Emily Jane Bishop, Sarjak Rakholiya.

  • Faculty: Ricardo Mayor, Marielena Papandreou, Shyam Francesco Zonca, Lana Awad.
  • Faculty assistants: Ilaena Napier and Karthy Krishna Vijaya Kumar.
  • Coordinator: Gabriele Jureviciute
  • Written by: Luca Paul Lino Wenzel
  • Curated by: Daniela Figueroa

Are you interested in “Learning by Doing”? Do you want to use algorithms, digital data, digital fabrication machines, or biological and smart materials for prototyping and accelerating new building innovation solutions?

Find out more about the Master in Advanced Architecture: