How we made “Voronoi”

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Voronoi and what it is about

We set out to create “Voronoi” as our first parametric design project. The name of our project “Voronoi”, is derived from the Voronoi diagram, which is a “partitioning of a plane into regions based on distance to points in a specific subset of the plane”. To put it simply, it is just a cool way of dividing a surface into polygons that have no fixed number of sides. We chose the Voronoi diagram because we think hexagons are over done and boring!

Choosing a shape for our surface

To showcase a parametrically designed surface, we wanted to use a shape that could show off all the sexy curves of our design. We chose a shape that was concave in the front and convex at the back. This was a good combination because it gave us the voluptuous saddle point in the middle that we were looking for. The next part was in mapping the Voronoi diagram on our sexy surface. 

Mapping the Voronoi diagram

It was easy to map the Voronoi diagram using grasshopper to the curved surface we created in Rhino. But therein lies our problem. We wanted to map the diagram but yet planarize each Voronoi cell. That means, we couldn’t manufacture a curved Voronoi cell because we didn’t know how to do it in real life (nor do we think it’s possible with the current technology – well, maybe NASA could do it). So we have to just planarize it, or in layman’s term, make the curved cells flat. This for some reason was surprisingly difficult and it took us about 1 week just to figure out the solution.

Finding the height of each cell and more

Once we planarized each of the Voronoi cells, we had to determine the CG of each cell and measure the distance of this center to the ground. The ground in this case is a piece of acrylic board. We also had to find the location of where the CG lands on the board, and mark these positions.

Mounting and the joint mechanism

Seeing the Voronoi cell’s sexy curve on the computer was gratifying, but we had to translate it to real-life somehow. Our idea was to mount each cell on a magnetic ball joint that could swivel independently to the correct rotation or angle of that cell. We used the coolest magnetic we could think of, so we chose Neodymium magnets over your everyday fridge magnet. Each of these magnetic “ball joint” would be affixed to a threaded rod. The threaded rod would then be inserted into a base board. In this case, the baseboard we used was an acrylic board.

Putting it all together

Now that we have the computer wizardry done and the mounting mechanism to bring it to real-life, we had to generate the whatnots to make it happen.

  1. We first have to label the center point of each Voronoi cell and etch a number on it so that we know where to glue the magnetic receiver of the ball joint.
  2. We then have to mark the placement of the threaded rod and etch a number on the acrylic board so we knew which threaded rod goes where.
  3. Subsequently, we had to hand drill and tap each of these etched marks on the board to receive our threaded rod. In hind sight, we should have used metal threaded inserts instead of manually tapping each hole. This would have increased the pull out strength of each hole and reduced stripping of the threads.
  4. Next, we had to manually cut all the threaded rods to the correct length. This was incredibly tiring because the threaded rods were made of stainless steel and our saw blades were damaged after a few cuts, and had to be constantly replaced.
  5. Once the threaded rods were cut to the correct lengths and inserted onto the acrylic base board, we hand screwed the balls onto the threaded rods. With the magnetic receivers of the ball joint glued onto each Voronoi cell, we magnetically position each Voronoi cell (now with the magnetic receiver) to the balls of the threaded rod.

We then angled each Voronoi cell to the correct angle by eye and hand, and before we know it, we saw the sexy saddle curve of the entire surface happen before us. It was an incredibly gratifying sight to witness.

We'd love to hear from you!

Let us know what you think and if you have a better way to do this! We look forward to hearing from all you grasshopper enthusiasts. Until then!

*Hops away*

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