Derby Makers

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Parametric Box-making

This is quick article about the principle of parametric design, and how I used it to make a simple box-making website.  In the future I will write more about how the website works, the code that is used to make the drawings, how you can contribute your own code and designs, and what else might be done with it in the future (anyone for infinitely customise-able furniture at the same price as off-the-shelf IKEA, built a mile from your house with local timber?).  Before we change the world, though, this page is a simple introduction, and an example.


What is parametric design?  Here’s the complicated explanation: Wikipedia

For the simpler explanation we need an example – lets say we want to make a box:

Parametric Boxes cut on the SilkMIll laser cutter

Parametric Boxes

The box has a length, width, and height.  In a conventional drawing we choose these dimensions in advance, then draw the box ready to cut the parts out.  If the size of the box needs to change, we would need to make a new drawing.


If we use parametric principles to draw the box, the size and shape we chose at the start is not so important, because the drawing is not linked to the numbers we chose, but to the parameters behind those numbers.  In a parametric design, the length of the box is “length”, not “350 mm”.  So if we want to change the size, we can just edit some numbers in the design software, and it will very quickly make a new drawing.  We can change “length” from “350 mm” to “360 mm” or “350.000005 mm”, and a whole new drawing will be created.


This link shows parametric design in action to create a laser cut box.  This page produces accurate drawings which can be used to cut parts on a laser cutter.  In addition to the length, width, and height of the box, there are some other parameters to specify what thickness of material is being used, and how many teeth are needed.  Hopefully this simple example illustrates the power of parametric design.


Parametric modelling is used a lot in architecture, and it is one of the reasons buildings like this are possible to design and build.


I have also used it to design a bookcase which is infinitely adjustable to fit exactly the space that you have available.  Soon, I will do a write-up of the bookcase design and link to it from here.

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