Variable Carving Volume Casting

A Method for Mass-Customized Mold Making
  • Brandon CliffordEmail author
  • Nazareth Ekmekjian
  • Patrick Little
  • Andrew Manto


The digital era fosters variability and change, though this desire loses traction when applied to methods falsely assumed to be repeatable—casting. This collision has produced a plethora of expensive, wasteful, and time-intensive methods. This chapter presents a method for rapidly carving variable molds to cast unique volumetric elements, without material waste. This method employs a multi-axis robotic arm fitted with a hot-knife to carve foam into mass-customized negatives. In doing so, it re-engages a gothic craft tradition of producing unique volumetric architectural elements. The act of rapidly carving volumetric material mines knowledge from the past in an effort to create novel forms that are not possible in the aggregation of standard building components. This chapter advocates for, prototypes, and analyses this variable, sympathetic, and reciprocal approach that carving once offered the built environment. We found the method to be effective and promising, when informed by limitations and constraints embedded in the process.


Robotic fabrication Multi-axis Formwork Mass customization Digital craft Free-form geometry 



This chapter is part of a research workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology titled ‘Volumetric Robotics’ and led by Brandon Clifford. This course is dedicated to translating volumetric methods of making into contemporary digital culture. Teaching assistance by Trygve Wastvedt and Bobby White. Fabrication and facility support by Justin Lavallee and Larry Sass. Geometries were generated in Grasshopper (, a parametric plugin developed by David Rutten for Rhinoceros (, a program developed by Robert McNeil. Robotic control was generated via Hal (, a program developed by Thibault Schwartz and SuperMatterTools, a program developed by Wes McGee of Matter Design ( and Dave Pigram of Supermanoeuvre (


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Clifford
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nazareth Ekmekjian
    • 1
  • Patrick Little
    • 1
  • Andrew Manto
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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