The RAW Modular Training Experience

During the week of 23-27 January ‘23, Raw welcomed a group of 15 Architecture students from the University of Pretoria for a Plywood Design and Construction week. The aim of the week was to familiarise the students with the processes around designing and manufacturing with plywood by using contemporary design and machining techniques. This course is envisioned to be the first in a series of training weeks – taking the students from a basic understanding of plywood design and manufacturing to creating parametric systems that aid in the design of multiple-use structures.

To kick off the week the students had a day of theory , focussing on plywood as material and the CAD/CAM software, with a real-time demonstration of the making of a Raw product, that they then had to assemble. The next morning, fresh and fully motivated, we discussed the brief.

The brief asked the students to think of plywood in a structural way, to think of the possibilities of the foot, joint, and column and/or beam of a structural component or structural system, that spans 4 metres and meets the surface on 2 different levels. The students had to ultimately translate their design into CAD and CAM software models, and then into a full-size prototype for testing.
The sky was the limit as the students put pen to paper generating ideas of plywood-grandeur, which then, guided by industry experts – Thinus, Peet and Kyle, were refined into workable designs.

We were amazed by the innovative designs that came out, with one group focussing on the possibilities of modular plywood ‘building blocks’, which later inspired the name Team Armadillo. The other group challenged the ways of joining and fixing plywood in a sleek, yet more technical design, from where Team Greyhound emerged.
On the last day the students finished up the final CNC cutting and assembly of the full-size prototypes to be subjected to a strength test.
A little bit nervous, but very excited, students placed sandbags one by one on their prototype to see how much weight it could endure. Team Armadillo were all smiles after successfully placing 12 sandbags/ 500kg on their prototype. Next up was Team Greyhound. After every successful placement – a sigh of relief- until the sigh of relief turned into a gasp as the Greyhound structure reached its maximum capacity and failed.
(a special mention to Matt for standing ready to capture this moment in slow-motion.) After having a good laugh, we concluded the week with a visit from the DTI and a project debriefing. Tired, but inspired, the students left having had the full RAW plywood manufacturing experience (which some would say was life-changing).

We’d like to thank York Timbers, in association with the University of Pretoria, who set up this programme with the aim to further the timber construction industry, by exposing young students to ways of fabrication and design of structural plywood. This is of course falls perfectly in alignment with Raw’s vision to include an educational training aspect to our offerings through more engagement with universities, and professional training programmes.
Are you part of a company/ university interested in Plywood Design and Construction training? Or perhaps you are a professional struggling to prototype your work efficiently? Let’s get in touch.

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