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Choosing the right fabrication technique – FAB FEST

Choosing the right fabrication strategy

Throughout the years of experience in the Fabrication Lab and FAB FEST, we have noticed that some strategies work better than others when fabricating pavilions for FAB FEST. Therefore, we decided to share some insights that would help you when designing for fabrication. This article will help you to inform your design decisions to fit our fabrication capabilities.


It is important to understand what a machine can do and have a full spectrum of it's capabilities in order to achieve design excellence. We have three different machines that you should familiarise yourself with:


is originally a CNC router that can machine sheets up to 2440x1220mm. It has been transformed into oscillating knife cutter. Its obvious benefit is its size. It also cuts the material fairly fast. It is best for big components of the pavilion. 


Is a tangential knife cutter. It can cut sheets in 1220x1220mm. The benefit of using this machine is that it can cut material in (45 degree) angles which is great for folding. It is also fairly effective when cutting straight lines or scoring the material. The downside of it is it is fairly slow and it cannot cut complex shapes and small radiuses.

Liz and Zaha

These are our beast laser cutters. They are extremely fast and powerful. It can cut sheets up to 1000x600mm. It is most useful when cutting complex geometries. It is most versatile machine.

Khan, Mies and Corb

These are also very capable laser cutters. They can cut sheets up to 600x400mm. They are very fast and precise, so they are best in repeating modules and small details.


Fabrication of all the pavilions for the festival can be quite intense, therefore, choosing right strategy can help a lot. We have 5 laser cutters and two CNC machines. Obviously, laser cutters are very effective for the overall process because of their speed and capability, but the disadvantage is in size. Our CNC machines can handle large sheets, but take slightly longer to cut.

Design for Fabrication

Familiarising yourself with the industry standards of fabrication can become your cornerstone of the design ethos and strategies. It can massively reduce waste, costs and your carbon footprint. But now how we do apply this for FAB FEST?  Before designing you pavilion I think it is essential to familiarize yourself with the list above and maybe even browse more on the net. Knowing your machines can be very helpful, therefore, we have developed these bullet points to help you understand how it can be helpful:  1) Time; 2) Budget; 3) Waste; 4) Assembly.

Time: Altering the size of your components to fit them on faster or more suitable machine like laser cutter, can help you save time dramatically. Laser cutters are probably at least 4 times faster than cnc machines. One small step like this would help you save money of your machining budget.

Budget: Your budget consists of funds for materials and for machining operations, so you have to keep that in mind when preparing and testing your designs. Choosing certain machine can help you achieve higher performance and save you time (and money). So you don't waste your budget on machine and invest it in more material to achieve better results. One hour of machining (laser or cnc) is FL€ 50. 

Waste: Third very important factor for us is the waste. Adapting your components to given sizes of the sheet materials can help reduce the waste dramatically. This decision can be informed at the very beginning of the design. Choosing one or two different material sizes and working within your own set constraints would reduce your carbon footprint. Be smart when 'nesting' (laying drawings on the sheet), twist your pieces around, turn them, and push them in as much as you can so there is no free space. It's almost like doing a puzzle. At the end of the day it's nice to be friendly to the environment.

Assembly: another factor that should be considered at the very beginning of your design is assembly. To maximize your performance when building it up few small decisions when choosing fabrication method can be essential. Sometimes, pieces that are so small can be a pain to assemble and would take a lot more time than anticipated. On the other hand, pieces that are 2440mm long can be quite difficult to work with too. Also a good idea is to keep in mind the corrugation of material, as it can enhance the strength of your structure.

Distribution: It is also important to consider the combination of different machines. Why not using different machines and take the benefit of all of them at the same time. Size of Norman, angles of Renzo and speed of Corb and Liz.

We hope this is helpful at this stage of your design. If you have any more questions and want an advice send us a message or dm on Instagram @fabfest.london.