Layth Mahdi

Layth Mahdi - Digital Craft


Digital Craft

The recent years have witnessed a clear shift from hand crafted, manual making to seamless translation of design to manufacturing through the advancement of digital fabrication. Unlike manual hand crafts, where hands and tools inputs are almost inevitable, and the same product is always unique, digital fabrication tends to deliver more of spotless and exact translation of the digital model with almost no software, tool, or machine contribution. In contemporary practice, designers are required to enclose all the information necessary for a project in a digital notational form, such as a CAM model, convert it into a toolpath and finally send it to the machine as a digital code, leaving no room for the machine input.

The fabrication process is, thus, a one-way loop. The process is pre-calculated in advance before moving to the fabrication. Consequently, the variety of possible inputs that could be used is restricted to the digital model itself with intended shapes and well-known characters. For example, many CNC or 3D Printing operations require specific code files which, in essence, the digital toolpath translation of the 3D model that tells the machine how to systematically print or mill. The global process is driven by the digital model and tolerances measured against the initial digital notation, leaving no room for any machine or tool agency.

This research investigates an alternative approach, a two-way design loop. Model to machine, with software, machine and tool inputs. Therefore, the initial digital model, rather than operating as mere notational mean, is required to act as a guiding initial framework for design investigations, finding its completion in the fabrication stage and directly informed, by tools, toolpaths materials.


The digital model acted as the base for the fabrication process. The proposition is that digital processes can more closely resemble traditional craftsmanship. Several linear and nonlinear tool-paths are applied. Each toolpath used a distinct milling tool leaving a unique pattern. A systematic overlay of all the toolpaths and tools results in a very complex and inimitable patterns that are otherwise very hard to imagine or model. To distinguish each toolpath kerf from the next, the model is sprayed with black foam-safe spray between each toolpath. Resulting in very complex pattern layering system.

The proposition is that digital fabrication processes can more closely resemble traditional hand crafts and human making, in the sense that design intent evolves simultaneous with machines and tools being used. This research examines an alternative approach of how software, machines and tools could potentially have their own input rather than acting as mere translation media.