FAB: Molded Panel Sculpture

Molded Panel Sculpture

The second project in the Digital Fabrication course at U of M was to make a self standing 3D form from molded plastic panels. The idea was the use the CNC router to make 3D forms of MDF. Then PETG plastic was heated and vacuum formed over the forms. 

The basis of the panel design is a octagon, with rounded edges. Curves were drawn as edges for the surface contours:

Here surfaces have been applied and the edges of the extruded base shape trimmed:

This is a plan view of the resulting form of a single panel. This is prior to deformation by the Rhino Paneling Tools


The form the panels are applied to began as a simple revolved curve. The Paneling Tools generate a grid of points which govern how the panels are deformed to fit. You can see those points below:


Here is the form as generated on the cylinder by the Paneling Tools: 

Because of the symmetry of the form this is composed of only two different panel distortions. These are then hand edited in Rhino to create tabs to join them to the adjacent panel.


A file was generated to load into MasterCAM to drive the 3D contouring of the form. The green lines shown are the edges of the MDF. Two sheets were laminated to give a 1-1/2” thickness.

The molds were cut on the CNC router from “Plum Creek” MDF:

These were then vacuum formed using 1/32” thick PETG plastic:

 Here’s a single molded panel. At the top of the image you can see the stack of 16”x16” panels:

Each piece had to be cut out by hand. PETG PITA! With more time we should have devised a way to cut them on the router itself. 

Here are the sections clamped together during assembly:


Here’s the final sculpture – it stands 30” high: 


Posted by: MkMrA2
Source: Digital fabrication for Designers