Nadya Peek, collaborator Jennifer Jacobs receive NSF award to research digital fabrication tools for low–volume manufacturing

Friday, September 4, 2020

Nadya's headshot

Dr. Nadya Peek

Digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing and CNC milling enable people to make unique objects using computer-aided design and computer-aided modeling tools. Increasingly, small firms are creating low-volume, specialized products using digital fabrication for manufacturing. These digital manufacturers can create highly specialized products, such as the custom 3D printed dresses developed by Nervous System or the precision-milled pens developed by CW&T. However, low-volume digital manufacturing requires complicated workflows using various machines, software, hardware, and materials, all with different requirements based on the application. 

Nadya Peek, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, and her collaborator Jennifer Jacobs, assistant professor at University of California Santa Barbara in the Media Arts and Technology Department and in Computer Science, will develop computational tools to better support dynamic workflows and allow for creative input at all steps of the design and fabrication process.

Peek and Jacobs have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to research how digital manufacturers are using digital fabrication, identify challenges and opportunities in their workflows, and develop software tools that facilitate the digital fabrication workflow development process. $250,000 across two years will support Peek on this project at UW, and $250,000 will support Jacobs on this project at UCSB.

Jennifer's headshot

Dr. Jennifer Jacobs

One goal Peek and Jacobs have is to diversify participation in digital fabrication and end-user programming by creating technologies relevant to art and craft domains. The researchers hope these new tools will enable people to combine familiar approaches from art, design, and craft with computer programming, opening pathways to engage in engineering. 

At the University of Washington, Nadya Peek develops unconventional digital fabrication tools, small scale automation, networked controls, and advanced manufacturing systems. Spanning electronics, firmware, software, and mechanics, her research focuses on harnessing the precision of machines for the creativity of individuals. She directs the Machine Agency research lab, and is a co-director of the UW Center for Digital Fabrication (DFab).

At the University of California Santa Barbara, Jacobs works across the fields of computational art and design, human computer interaction, and systems engineering. She directs the Expressive Computation Lab, where students investigate ways to support expressive computer-aided design, art, and manufacturing by developing new computational tools, abstractions, and systems that integrate emerging forms of computational creation and digital fabrication with traditional materials, manual control, and non-linear design practices. 

ACM Interactions

Image of student projectLearning Remotely, Making Locally: Remote Digital Fabrication Instruction During a Pandemic
By Jennifer Jacobs and Nadya Peek

ACM Interactions Blog, September 2020

As instructors of University-level digital fabrication courses, Peek and Jacobs experienced the challenges of pivoting in-person courses to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pair recently co-authored an article for the ACM Interactions Blog about their experience shifting hands-on courses to remote digital fabrication instruction in Spring 2020, and what opportunities they see in this space going forward. Read the article and view student projects from Spring 2020 digital fabrication courses here.