The flexibility of malleable mediums such as resin, latex, and silicone have provided users with a wide range of possibilities for aesthetic and formal innovation; however, their relationship to digital technology within the field of architecture has remained open-ended. With the increase of experiments in architecture schools and practices testing the potential of viscous materials to create form, it becomes imperative to recognize the parameters inherent to these mediums and the ways in which to use them precisely. A novel and unique form of 3D printing is enabled when these parameters are defined.
As described in Design Approaches Through Augmented Materiality and Embodied Computation, augmented materiality “can be understood as a means to imbue material craftsmanship with the qualities of digital fabrication such that algorithmic and robotic control act as additional material attributes”. Our intention for these experiments is to allow for the inherent properties of natural materials to inform the project’s framework. Time, volume, and viscosity of the silicone rubber resin material determine the length of the structure created, and the surface tension of the rock becomes its own scaffolding. As such, materials have their own sense of agency-- “...they can be ‘designed’ to adapt and to find their own responses to structural or spatial contexts” (Johns, 326).
We explore an approach to creating formal elements with silicone rubber resin and rocks through an embodied design process. Divided into four parts: actuation, sensing, interface, and simulation, our intention is to understand the rubber-rock formations not just as the playful objects they resemble but as a product of calibrated digital tools, isolated and measured material properties, and iterative design workflows. Through numerous material tests, observations, and data gathering, we were able to create a calibrated workflow through which Percolation Printing was achieved. The result is an autonomous, hands off design process that can yield nearly any silicone-rock form, generated from top down using gravity and inherent material properties to dictate percolation flow.