Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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cnc serendipity

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posted on 2021-11-14, 09:49 authored by Bennett, James Edward

This thesis discusses the traditional use of (computer numerically controlled) CNC machining and the role of a designer to control the manipulation of (computer aided manufacturing) CAM software, CNC data and materials. The engaged designer has the capability to add qualities of digital tectonics onto a specified form through the process of working intimately with a CNC lathe. They experiment using abstract forms to find unique qualities that come from the cutting action of the tooling in a lathe. The designer takes on the role of the self-learner to become competent in the software, technology to apply complex textures and expressions.  The designer can capitalise on unforeseen events, adds the action of craft to this industrial production method, creates beauty and provokes an emotional connection. Understanding the potential in the design possibility is to accept the serendipitous influences that can be controlled and the inevitable moments that cannot.  The core of this research is to show how a designer claims authorship of their design at the making stage. They can define the margin of control and randomness, whether something has become too serendipitous, compromising the crafted form, or remained banal, repeating the precision machining, and releasing any character from the object. By finding the best design solution and replicating the same understanding a craftsperson has of their traditional tools. The designer observes, analyses, succeeds and fails, recognising the potential of their experimentation. Using Cross’s model of exploration, generation, evaluation and communication there is the strategy to see the unexpected, realise the potential and make it desirable. Learning the ability to manipulate digital surfaces and identify serendipitous qualities produced by the physical fingerprint of the machining process.  Opposing the machines’ engineering, expressing the marks of the tool on an object, the imprints behaving as fingerprints left on a surface, is a unique characteristic. Something that makes the end user want to experience, feel, move and use it every day. These surprising results may influence the future of how design is conducted with digital technologies and adding digital complexities inspired by traditional craft to design more interesting artefacts.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Industrial Design

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design


Miller, Tim