The Future Belongs to the Creators ™


We decide to build a new project we’d learned about, WikiHouse, an open source building system. They released files of buildings that could be cut from plywood with a CNC router. As we we’re focused on learning to operate a robotic cutting system, not designing projects for one, this project seemed like a perfect fit.

First Attempt

We went through their catalog of models and picked the one used World Maker Faire 2013 SketchUp Wikihouse so we knew it had been built. At the time, our lab space was small so we could only cut a slice of the floor to test the idea. To make sure our machine is accurate, we cut a “calibration test”. The cut files are generated by a Ruby plugin in SketchUp, our favorite 3D Modeling software.

Calibration Test

20131108 171709 BE7f DSC RX100


This is a piece only a robot could cut. The precise angles of the “S-Joint” lock parts strongly together to form the structure of the building.

20131108 170513 BE7f DSC RX100

Wikihouse Parts

With our machine passing the test, we converted the .dxf files for the ShopBot and starting cutting our first Wikihouse. We cut labels into the parts to figure out what was what.

20131118 141157 BE7f DSC RX100


With only an eight foot ceiling, we trimmed off the roof and wall parts leaving a span of the floor to construct.

20131118 143434 BE7f DSC RX100

Detail of peg locking floor joist to side beams. The gap in the hole is where the floor joist for the next floor section would attach. To make the building larger, you just add more sections until the size is right.

20131118 143449 BE7f DSC RX100

Open Floor

We leave a side of the floor open to view the structure underneath.

20131118 170639 BE7f DSC RX100

What We Learned

  1. This is what a CNC is designed to do.
  2. Using interlocking parts instead of fasteners is worth repeating.
  3. Locking 3/4in plywood pieces together is incredibly strong.
  4. Their SketchUp plugin is broken.
  5. We were able to assemble it, but a diagram to follow is needed.
  6. There are errors in their cut files. (The center floor joist - on a seam - is missing.)