Project Overview

This project is a public, web-based database of North Carolina manufacturers that have the capacity to work with architects for customized repetitive manufacturing of architectural components.  This database includes selected images of architectural case studies and a vetted list of NC manufacturers that have similar production capacities as those represented by the case studies.

Project Background

In recent years, mass customization and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technologies have transformed design and off-site building component fabrication. Simultaneously, traditional repetitive manufacturing still dominates the majority of the production for architectural components. At the same time, CAM’s computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines have also made the fabrication of molds for repetitive manufacturing easier.  CNC milling machines, electrical discharge machining (EDM), and hot-wire foam cutters are used to create molds for repetitive manufacturing. With the use of CNC equipment, architects and manufacturers have been working together to customize the molds, jigs, or patterns used in repetitive manufacturing for building components. I am proposing the term ‘customized repetitive manufacturing’, or CRM, to reference this type of work.

CRM is a necessary alternative to mass customization for the manufacturing of architectural components. Since CRM is defined by a customized and yet repetitive manufacturing process, the manufacturing processes included in CRM must make repeated use of the mold, pattern, or jig in the production of the architectural component. CRM includes those repetitive manufacturing processes with relatively low capital costs and that can support low- to mid- volume production runs of repeatable objects. CRM allows for customization from the designer, while balancing the need for repetition in order to remain cost effective. This balance makes CRM easily applicable for the custom design of architectural components.

Customized repetitive manufacturing has a number of valuable benefits. First, this process reuses its jigs, molds, or patterns during production. Secondly, repetitive manufacturing typically only use as much materials as the mold, pattern, or jig needs. By reusing tools and reducing raw material requirements, customized repetitive manufacturing can have little to no production waste. Next, manufacturing tolerances for most of these processes are high and have the potential to rival the tolerances of CNC equipment. Fourth, because each unit uses the same design, the soft cost most likely will be lower than CAM. Next, because of typically low capital costs, designers can customize the molds, patterns, or jigs, with limited additional costs. Finally, there is a wider range of materials, finishes, and processes that are available in repetitive manufacturing for customizing than there is for CAM.

Database Creator

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Dana K. Gulling is an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University and is a registered architect.   Her research and teaching broadly examine the growing importance of design integration of building services, systems, and details to architectural design.  Specifically, her research focuses on prefabrication and customizing repetitive manufacturing processes and their potential application in architectural design.

Dana has presented her research at academic conferences and symposia, and has a upcoming journal article titled “Innovate | Integrate” in d3:dialog>blur (anticipated publication May 15, 2013). Prior to joining NCSU, Dana was at the University of New Mexico and Savannah College of Art and Design.  She has taught graduate and upper-level architecture design studios, building materials, construction technology, architectural structures, and seminars on manufacturing.

Dana holds a Master’s of Architecture from Yale University and Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Notre Dame with a concentration in Structural Engineering.