Artfully-crafted wooden joints that fit together like puzzle pieces and need neither glue nor nails is fascinating stuff, but to call the process of designing and manufacturing them by hand “time-consuming” would be an understatement. To change that, a research team from the University of Tokyo presented Tsugite, a software system for interactively designing and fabricating complex wooden joints. It’s named after the Japanese word for joinery, and aims to make the design and manufacture of glue and fastener-free joints much easier than it otherwise would be.
It looks like the software is so far only a research project and not something that can be downloaded The software is available on GitHub and the approach it takes is interesting. This downloadable PDF explains how the software deals with the problem of how to make such a task interactive and practical.
The clever bit is that the software not only provides design assistance for the joints themselves in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface, but also generates real-time feedback based on using a three-axis CNC tool as the manufacturing method. This means that the system understands the constraints that come from the fabrication method, and incorporates that into design feedback.
The two main limitations of using a three-axis CNC are that the cutting tool can only approach the material from above, and that standard milling bits cannot create sharp inner corners; they will have a rounded fillet the same radius as the cutting bit. Design can be done manually, or by selecting joints from a pre-defined gallery. Once the design is complete, the system generates the toolpaths for manufacture.
Currently, Tsugite is limited to single joints meant for frame structures, but there’s no reason it couldn’t expand beyond that scope. A video to accompany the paper is embedded below, it’s short and concise and shows the software in action, so be sure to give it a look.