Variable Plate Connector Research Focus

The gridshell and rainscreen research groups are focused on the ability of thin wood laths to bend, while much of timber construction is through straight rigid heavy timbers (trees grow straight!).  The challenge and perhaps love for these structures is at the joint.  Traditional timber structures use exquisite wood to wood joints, whereas many contemporary approaches use a hybrid system of timber member with steel connectors. Steel connectors offer stronger connections for larger and more complex structures, but this group should also note techniques and terminologies for wood to wood joints as well.  In steel connectors, special note should be taken to distinguish between an applied external connector (which is often the case in the USA and can be seen through Simpson Strong-Tie connectors) with internal spline connectors (as often seen in European fabrication processes).   A third variant is the celebrated joint which can be seen in custom cast pin joints and the like.  The opportunity for a parametric development of a variable plate connector is to develop complex geometry from straight segments using the pre-fabricated joint as a kind of jig from which the geometry is set-out in construction.

Over the next two weeks this group should:

  • Precedent survey of timber joints, traditional wood to wood, but primarily steel connectors both external applied and internal integrated.  Realize that the kind of joint employed is intricately tied to the means of fabrication, so you must also survey timber fabricators and their capabilities (which is also a great place to get precedents of built work).
  • Get into Grasshopper understanding how to develop timber sections from a few center lines and importantly, how to “unfold” 3d to 2d part geometry through orientation.  A place to start is designalyze’s old panelization work, and using the GH forum from there.

The long-term goal is to create a GH design tool that the user can control law curves from which timbers develops and planar joints are flattened for fabrication.  This will focus then on 2d parts being assembled into self-jigging joints.  We will talk about what all this mean, including specific terminology such as “law curves” and “self-jigging.”  Get going with above, and we will refine goals as you understand GH better.

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