SURFACE – Xbox controlled hot wire foam Cutter


Surface is an intuitive sculpting instrument that cuts Styrofoam blocks using multiple axis hotwire controlled by xbox controller. This is an unconventional method of controlling CNC that allows people to exert their creativity in a real-time flow without an aid of computational programmes.

As the machine is run by user’s instinct rather than pre-drawn digital geometries, it explores the ambiguous boundary between analogue and digital and challenges the conventional method of digital fabrication where the involvement of CAD software is vital.

As the hot wire slice through the Styrofoam block, users can witness and make alteration to their shape as the cutting progresses. Therefore what has been cut cannot be duplicated perfectly but only through mastering the technique can the user repetitively produce accurate modelling, just like playing an musical instrument.

Machine is operated on Arduino Mega board and Ramps Board v2 on top connected to 4 stepper motors.


Video of people cutting the foam during the exhibition

This foam cutting instruments aims to introduce audiences to the joy of designing shapes in a manner that does not require the users to have skills in digital modelling.




work area of the cutting instrument

With an aid of advanced parametric software, the use of complex curvlinearity has become ubiquitous and made it difficult to discuss the sculptural quality purely on the basis of optical perspectives. Whereas in time of Gaudi this process would have required sleepless nights to calculate and construct physical models that involves hand=on tools and instruments specifically developed for target geometries.




One of the cut geometry

Through invention of an instrument that has its specific characteristic in which the shapes it can sculpt. I wanted to introduce a traditional method of constructing ruled-surface geometry that existed since Gaudi’s time but through manner that involves both analogue and digital



Surface was exhibited as a workshop rather than a static display and people actively involved in process of making. As the users had a direct control of the machine through controller familiar to them, it was entertaining to watch how users quickly gained more confident and became playful with the instruments.





In addition as the cutting happens, the computer records user’s command / motions for and produce notations that appear similar to musical score. This notation better describes the geometry than using the conventional descriptions such as dimensions and angles.



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