Raycounting 00001 Listing
Code for generating customized shading structures by registering the intensity and orientation of light rays

Structural skin

Researcher: Prof. Neri Oxman

Year: 2007

Location: MoMA. Permanent Collection. New York, NY

Curved surfaces self-assemble by assigning light parameters to flat planes.
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Surface thickness varied as a function of structural performance
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Transparency varied as a function of light penetration performance


Geometry has traditionally dictated descriptive manifestations of shapes (e.g. spheres and cubes). Raycounting looks beyond the realm of geometry (i.e. form first) into the concept of performance (i.e. performance first) to inform such manifestations. This shift carries important potential for design to open up to new avenues of exploration and form finding.

This project explores the relationship between geometry and performance from a computational-geometry perspective by revisiting certain analytical tools offered in most of today’s 3D modeling software which support the evaluation of surface geometry – specifically curvature and draft angle analysis.

The Raycounting method revisits and updates the nineteenth century “photo-sculptures” technique. The method was developed by projecting photographs of objects onto sheets of wood, then carving and assembling the projects into 3D sculptures. In Raycounting, the intensity and orientation of natural light is registered and used to compute and produce the form of a 3D-printed structure. The models explore relationships between geometry and shading, resulting in structures that are customized to fit their environmental conditions. The algorithm used in Raycounting calculates the intensity, position and direction of one, or multiple, light sources placed in a given environment. It then assigns local curvature values to each point in space corresponding to the reference plane and the light dimension. Light performance analysis tools are reconstructed programmatically to allow for morphological synthesis based on intensity, frequency and polarization of light parameters as defined by the user.

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Light rays vector map juxtaposed with correlating geometrical manipulation
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Bio-inspired Armor Design, based on the Raycounting method


Through this project, tools with added functionality have been created designed to inform geometrical features by structural and environmental performance. Surface thickness—which varies as a function of structural performance—is assigned to curvature values, and transparency—which varies as a function of light penetration performance—is assigned to light analysis values.

This project promotes a methodology of performance-informed form generation by means of computational geometry. Vector and tensor math was exploited to reconstruct existing analytical tools adapted to function as shape generators.

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Front Elevation
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Back Elevation
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Side Elevation
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3D Printed silk-coated nylon


Collaborators & Contributors: ARRK Product Development Group Ltd.; Tangible Express

All images and video courtesy of Neri Oxman

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