Bert de Muynck | MovingCities published in a recent issue of MARK magazine an interview with Jerry Ku and Julian Wang from E-Grow International Trading Co.. Having worked for the likes of Zaha Hadid Architects (Guangzhou Opera House), Foster+Partners (UAE Pavilion for Expo 2010), davidclovers (Barker Residence),… the company has patented an interesting waxing method to construct complex surfaces. ‘I do not like parametrically designed buildings. But this is the future,‘ and ‘The quality of the execution was terrible. I think Zaha also realizes this,‘ Jerry Ku says. Interview now online.
How did you come up with the idea for digital fabrication in wax?
Jerry Ku: Prior to 2006 we did moulding in a traditional way, using MDF for simple geometries. Around that time, Zaha Hadid arrived in China. One of her architects, Simon Yu, showed me Rhinoceros 3D. I had never seen it before, and I thought it was amazing. I started thinking about how to work with the parametric shapes that this program allows and about how to construct moulds on a 1:1 scale. After all, who can afford to make panels for a project that requires a different shape for every piece? I tried using ice, which is cheaper than MDF but starts melting at 0°C. Then I thought about wax. The melting point of wax – about 45°C – is also too low, but my wax supplier managed to raise that number to 90°C, allowing me to produce cheap moulds that can be reused and recycled. When I was convinced that it worked, I registered the patent.
Julian Wang: Wax is perfect for parametric design, as it can be moulded quickly and is recyclable. It’s also to our advantage that China has low labour costs, since making a different mould for each panel is extremely labour intensive. They have to be made by hand, carefully and precisely. After use, we melt the wax. On average, only 2 per cent is too dirty to reuse. We have 12 CNC-milling machines in our factory, each of which produces up to three moulds a day. Using the traditional method, we would need three days for one mould.