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JigFab: Computational Fabrication of Constraints to Facilitate Woodworking with Power Tools

Woodworking is a cherished craft that takes years of training and skill to master. One of the most challenging steps of any woodworking project can be in making jigs for specialized cuts on your workpiece. In fact, these jigs will often take just as much artistry, time, and ingenuity to create as the piece itself. We saw this as an opportunity to augment this traditional hand craft with the best that digital fabrication has to offer, and so we made JigFab: a computational tool that automates the design and construction of woodworking jigs.

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Scientific Publication:

Danny Leen, Tom Veuskens, Kris Luyten, Raf Ramakers. JigFab: Computational Fabrication of Constraints to Facilitate Woodworking with Power Tools. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '19).

Supplementary Material:

JigFab generates an interactive 3D step-by-step instruction manual for users to follow during the fabrication process. An export of the computer generated manual to make a display cabinet is available here


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System Overview:

The Figure below shows a high-level overview of JigFab's workflow: (a) Our design environment is a plugin for Autodesk Fusio 360 and makes it convenient to add woodworking joints between parts. (b) Custom laser cut constraints are generated, including an interactive 3D step-by-step instruction manual, (c) The laser cut constraints and instruction manual guide the fabrication workflow with power tools, (d) the final display cabinet, designed and fabricated with JigFab.

Figure 1: JigFab's workflow: (a) Embedding joints in the 3D model, (b) Custom constraints and instructions are generated, (c) Fabrication by constraining power tools, (d) The assembled work piece.

Figure 2: Making (Left) finger joints and (right) a groove using JigFab's computationally generated constraints

Besides joints, JigFab also facilitates basic operations with power tools, such as making (miter) cuts and holes in a work piece. When the user enters the available items of stock material, JigFab fits all parts of the work piece on the stock material and generates constraints to make all cuts (Figure 3). JigFab also generates laser cut parts to configure power tools. For example, Figures 4 show how computationally designed laser cut parts configure respectively the depth of a drilling bit, the depth of a router, and the angle of a circular saw. With JigFab’s custom laser cut constraints, it becomes possible to fabricate constructions with power tools without requiring complex measurements or configurations. Previous research has shown that such measurements are the main source of error in many fabrication projects.

Figure 3: Users sizes of available stock material and JigFab panelizes all parts of the work piece and generates contraints to make all cuts.

Figure 4: JigFab also supports configuring power tools using laser cut constraints, such as (left) the drill depth, (middle) router depth, (right) miter angle of the circular saw

Supporting every possible operation in a fabrication workflow with power tools of requires laser cutting many constraints. To limit waste caused by these computationally designed parts, many constraints consist of custom elements (specific to the operation) and predefined elements (used across different designs and operations). As shown in Figure 5, custom parts are made out of MDF wood and thus have a brown color. Predefined elements can be pre-manufactured and can be recognized by their white color.

Figure 5: Computationally generated constraints consists of custom laser cut elements and predefined elements to reduce waste.

Although JigFab is mainly targeted towards novices, it can also support artisans. Take for example the intricate slanted finger joint in Figure X-c. To fabricate this finger joint, JigFab automatically configures the pitch and roll parameters of the jig shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Making highly intricate finger joints using JigFab's computationally fabricated jigs.

Supported Joints

The figures below provide an overview of the 16 joints supported by JigFab and computationally fabricated constraints that support novices in making the joints.

Figure 7: JigFab supports 16 types of joints.

Figure 8: fabricating grooves on a large work piece using a ruler guide.

Figure 9: Fabricating grooves on a small work piece using an edge guide.

Figure 10: Fabricating small grooves with the tool path jig.

Figure 11: Making a dowel joint requires: (a) transfering the depth of the drill using a template, (b) making a hole in the front and (c) cross face using contraints generated by JigFab.