Nadya Peek PhD Dissertation Defense

July 25, 2016


MIT Media Lab, E14-633


Rapid prototyping has been in the limelight for the past decade. 3D printers have an evocative name that promises production of complex parts on demand. However, current practice doesn't quite deliver on these promises of advanced manufacturing.

Peek argues that we need to transition from rapid prototyping to rapid prototyping of rapid prototyping. This transcends the additive versus subtractive manufacturing comparisons by grouping them together into rapid automation. Then instead of remaking prototypes to fit design-for-manufacturing guidelines, we can easily scale from prototype to (low volume) production.

Existing digital fabrication tools enable repeatability and precision by using codes to describe machine actions. But the infrastructure used for digital fabrication machines is difficult to extend, modify, and customise. It is very difficult for the end-user to incorporate more forms of control into the workflow. Machine building today is largely the same as it was 50 years ago, despite decades of progress in other fields such as computer science or network engineering.

Using insights from object-oriented programming, end-to-end principles in network design, and the open system interconnection model, I propose a new paradigm for machine building called object-oriented hardware. In this paradigm, software objects and hardware objects are peers that have procedures, methods, ports, and presentations. Any object can talk to any other object--objects have embodiments. A machine instantiation is an assembly of objects situated in a particular context.
Using object-oriented hardware as an architectural principle, Peek presents technical implementations of infrastructural components for machine building. These include distributed networked controls, reconfigurable software interfaces, and modular mechanical machine components.

To test the efficacy of object-oriented hardware, Peek observed machine building novices build machines using these tools in both a workshop format and in the Fab Lab network. To make the modular components for machine building accessible, Peek developed an extensible toolkit for machine building. Using this toolkit novices were able to make a wide range of machines, demonstrating the power of this method.

Host/Chair: Neil A. Gershenfeld


Erik Demaine
Jennifer Lewis

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