The Launch of Króna

For the past years I have learned to use various design tools, which I have applied on large building- and infrastructure projects. About a year ago, I started using these tools to create lamps and sculptures that could be CNC produced. This experiment has provided me with a creative outlet, which has been very satisfying for me.

Since january I have experimented a lot and created many shapes. Very few of them have made it across the barrier between the digital and the physical. However, some of them have. Many of these shapes now adorn our livingroom, but also the homes of a few of the people that have shown my experiments the most interest.

The amount of interest this hobby has been shown by friends and colleagues has been amazing. The interest has been such that I have decided to establish a small webshop where some of these projects can be purchased. I have refined them and made them easier to assemble, and turned them into better products.

I call this project Króna, which is a play on the icelandic word ljósakróna (En: Chandelier).

In the same way my first shapes were experiments, this is also an experiment. I have learned a lot about setting up a webshop, product photography and how to promote your product, making this experiment already partly successful.

I have had plenty of support from interested friends and colleagues, received lots of good advice, inspiration and help. I know that I have also been a bit demanding at times, as I have really liked talking about this journey. Thanks for everything!


Exponential development in surveying technology

Land surveying is a profession that relies heavily on technology. Being a technology-reliant profession it has gone through multiple periods of disruptive development. The rate of innovation was slow to begin with but has gradually been accelerating. It took us a really long time to go from ropes and sticks to optics and precision angular measurement using mechanical instruments and a much shorter time to go from the mechanical instruments to electric and digitial ones. With digitalization the rate of development changed and has accelerated even further.

For a long time the main form of surveying involved starting from known points, measuring the angles between them to determine the position of the instrument. This is the method used in theodolites and total stations. Then in the 80s the first commercial GPS instruments started entering the scene - indroducing a brand new mode of surveying. Since then many new modes of surverying have been introduced, as well as combinations of existing ones. Aerial Lidar systems mounted on commercial airplanes or spacecraft have made it possible to scan huge areas with high relative accuracy, fixed position 3D scanners have made it possible to capture complex scenes quickly, capturing millions of points from each station. 

A point cloud in Pix4D

For the past 10 years even more new modes of surverying have been added to the suite of tools available to surveyors. These tools are becoming increasingly less expensive and easier to use - to a degree that some have tried to rebrand the field as reality capture. Due to the falling price of technology, more and more consumer grade products have been appearing. An example of this is 123D Catch, which uses photogrammetry to capture 3D geometry through a smartphone. The flood of affordable drones has also left its mark with pro-sumer products such as Agisoft Photoscan or Pix4D that make mapping and the generation of 3D point clouds possible for consumers. This is an area that has been exclusive to surveyors and people with access to aircraft and expensive sensors.

For some years now, depth camera sensors such as the Kinect, have been available to consumers. These sensors combine a normal camera with a depth sensor which allows for creating a living point cloud. While the kinect was initially meant as an input method for controlling video games, many have shown that this can also be used for mapping. This is made possible by SLAM (Simultaneous-localization and mapping). SLAM allows for both building a point cloud of the sensors surroundings, but also keeps track of the sensors position and orientation. This technology is currently under rapid development as this is a key ingredient for making it possible for automated cars and robots to understand their environment. Recently a smartphone with a depth camera has been released by Lenovo and Google. SLAM is also being used with other modes of data collection such as lidar for rapid mapping of large buildings. Here an example from danish engineering consultants Cowi. 

Even more recently, methods for doing the same with regular cameras, have been invented. The video below shows how a point cloud is built using nothing but input from a camera. The point cloud is built in real time. 

The amount of data most certainly has gone exponential in surveying. We have gone from sparse measurements, collected one by one by a surveyor to tens of thousands of points being collected each second. The price of equipment is falling. Just recently researchers have developed a Lidar sensor on a chip that they state will be available to consumers within a few years for as low as $10. These sensors currently lie in the range of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

A Lidar chip
As the devices used for surveying or reality capture fall in price it is safe to assume that more and more people will gain access to them. Many of the tasks that are currently in the domain of surveyors will fall out of their domain. The amount of field work for data capture will most certainly be reduced for surveyors and the amount of data processing will increase. In many cases the surveyors will process data captured by others. Similarily the amount of setting out will also be reduced as the industry moves towards machine guidance and control systems.

One thing is certain, there will be no status quo. 

Generation of a laser cuttable geodesic sphere in Grasshopper

Since making my first lamp, I have continued to experiment with parametric geometry and laser cutting. I was inspired by the late Einar Þorsteinn's geodesic domes and Ólafur Elíasson's model room when I saw it at Louisiana last year. Following, I worked out a Grasshopper script that can generate a geodesic sphere, and expanded it so that the rules for generating a geodesic sphere can be applied to more or less, any convex shape. This became the basis for a script that generates a parametric, laser cuttable geodesic sphere.

To generate a geodesic sphere you can start with an icosahedron that contains a sphere. Each triangle face in the icosahedron is subdivided into identical triangular shapes and the triangles are then projected onto the sphere. This results in a network of lines that are called geodesic curves.

The sphere can be further subdivided.

This provides the network of curves that will be the basis of the sphere. Each curve will be extruded into a surface to become a member in the model. To assemble the members, a joint needs to be added where the members meet and slits generated where they meet. 

To visualize the end result, each member is given a thickness. 

The process works on other shapes as well, although the curves can only be regarded as geodesic when the process is applied to a sphere. 

While it proved easy to generate other shapes, I wanted to make a sphere. 

At this point it is trivial to generate the plans for laser cutting. As it turns out there are only 4 types of members in a geodesic sphere, which are easily nested manually by arraying. In order to prevent the laser cutter from doing overlapping cuts due to overlapping curves I must recommend the Topologizer plugin for Grasshopper. 

For this project I decided to go with for this project. They are Copenhagen based and offer a number of different materials, various thicknesses. You just upload a pdf, select a sheet size, press order and a few days later your project arrives by mail. 

So far two of these models have been produced. The one pictured below was produced for a friend who added a light source to it, with quite elegant results.