For much of the semester, Leah Engelhardt and Jingxian (Doris) Xie’s fellow architecture graduate students and professors had doubts about their project. They were trying to create a modular wine rack in their furniture design class, and their colleagues thought that the project’s intricate design and complex geometry were impossible. They would only have a digital version and not a physical model.
“They said it was not possible,’’ said Xie, “So we were going to make it happen.’’ The women created a unique and beautiful piece that was featured at a recent Washington State University showcase as well as at a Mom’s Weekend event.
The wine rack, which can hold 22 bottles, looks more like artwork than furniture. Taking their inspiration from weaving, the students’ design allows users to store bottles both horizontally and vertically. They used 3D digital modeling tools to create a lattice structure in four separate layers – first out of foam and later out of wood. They then used a computer controlled cutting machine to cut and carve the layers.
As the end of fall semester rolled around, though, Xie spent Thanksgiving break in the studio, working to make a foam version of their idea. They tried using a 3D printer, and it failed miserably. “We were freaked out,’’ said Xie.
They were running out of time, and they would only have one chance to do the cutting. They received a lot of support from David Drake, an adjunct faculty member in the School of Design and Construction and Fabrications Lab Manager, said Engelhardt. Finally, they started cutting. They held their breath, hoping the piece would hold.
“She was screaming,’’ said Xie, as she sent pictures of the intact piece electronically to Engelhardt. “It worked.’’ “We worked so hard,’’ added Engelhardt. “I’m glad we made it happen.’’
In their second semester, the women created a wooden version of the wine rack. They now hope to patent their design. The project taught them valuable lessons in pushing limits in design and manufacturing. Drake provided helpful information about using materials, they said.
Ironically, neither Xie or Engelhardt, who are both graduating this month, have much use for their hard-earned art piece. Engelhardt doesn’t like wine, and Xie is allergic to it.