Interactive Fabrication

Collaborators: Kuan-Ju Wu, Cheng Xu, Karl D.D. Willis, Golan Levin

Various interfaces and devices that take real-time input to fabricate physical form.

Cutter is a tangible interface for generating three-dimensional digital models by hand crafting polystyrene foam. The user pulls, pushes, and rotates a custom hotwire cutter to sculpt, cut, and shape foam cubes.


Shaper is a prototype device that uses a three-axis computer numerical control (CNC) machine to interactively dispense expanding polyurethane foam material. The user controls the device via a translucent touch screen to create physical artifacts with sketch-like gestures. Shaper challenges the conventional process of digital fabrication by allowing direct interactive control.


Speaker interactively sculpts wire forms based on sound input. The user stands in front of the device and speaks into a small microphone. The device then begins to push and bend the wire into a simplified sound wave contour based on his/her utterance. Sounds are thus physically ‘encoded’ into the wire, creating a tangible manifestation of an intangible sound.

Beautiful Modeler is a software tool for gestural sculpting using a multi-touch controller such as an iPad. Each finger is used to control a single touch point in the model, with multiple layers working to build up 3D volume. As the controller is connected over the wireless network, it can be moved freely to change the viewing angle of the model.


Trace Modeler  uses real-time video to create three-dimensional geometry. The silhouette of a foreground object in a video frame is subtracted from the background and used as a two-dimensional slice. At user-defined intervals new slices are captured and displaced along the depth axis. The result is a three-dimensional model defined by silhouette slices over time.


Fabricate Yourself documented the Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction Conference. Usually we think of documentation as text, photography and video, but given the tangible theme of the conference we engaged the community by capturing and fabricating small 3D models of attendees. This enabled us to build a tangible model of the event and fabricate it piece by piece during the conference.

Interactive Fabrication: New Interfaces for Digital Fabrication, Willis KDD, Xu C, Wu KJ, Levin G, and Gross MD, ACM SIGCHI Proc Tangible Embedded, Embodied Interaction (TEI), Madeira Portugal, 69-72. [pdf]