CNC Routed Shedd Bus Shelter | Project Breakdown

Conceptual phase for CNC routed Shedd Bus Shelter

At the beginning of almost every project, Bridgewater looks at precedents. We like to understand our client’s interests! We look at other projects that you like, or that are relevant to your design idea. For the CNC Routed Shedd Bus Shelter, we wanted it to be unique and eye-catching. However, the design needed to fit into the context of other, constructed shelters. In this way, looking at similar projects helps us communicate and get a better idea of what you like! This first phase in the design process is all about brainstorming. Ultimately, you’ll have helped us get a firm grasp on how the finished product should look.

Aquarium precedents

First of all, the team looks at other projects or ideas that inspire us. The Shedd Aquarium is all about ocean- and freshwater-dwelling creatures and fauna. Consequently, we looked at a variety of sea creatures and other underwater themes to generate a database of images and ideas. This bubble wall you see here was something that we enjoyed. As a result, it managed to make it into the final design in one form or another. To see one of our biggest sources of inspiration, visit the Shedd Aquarium Blog. Read about their real octopus, Opal!

Concept drawing for CNC routed Octopus Bus Shelter

Shedd rendered and presented the following mock-up as a demonstration of the user experience of the shelter. The concept drawing provides a basic understanding of how we imagine the final product. Look at how it describes the final production in a quick, straight-forward way. Basic dimensions help get an idea of scale.

Schematic designs for CNC routing

Extensive sets of schematic drawings help us better understand how to design everything. The dimensions, materials, connections, etc. are a long part of the overall process. Every part and component needs to be tested and finalized. Later, many of these parts are CNC routed or otherwise fabricated from scratch.

Designs evolve

Remember that bubble wall in the conceptual phase? In this phase we have discussions with the client, using real material tests— sometimes at full scale. The original design will always transform and evolve as better design and construction solutions are discovered. Here, one of our team members holds up two different plexiglass panels produced with our direct-to-substrate printer. They will be used for the bus stop back paneling.

Shop drawings

A detailed set of drawings is put into production. These meticulously documents represent a complete bill of materials with suppliers. They’re also used for sourcing any replacement components needed in the future. Any adjustments made during fabrication are tracked back and updated in the shop drawings so that as-built submittals are accurate.

Informed fabrication for CNC routing

Shop drawings help us maintain accurate dimensions. Moreover, the fabrication process is heavily dependent on these accurate drawings. They’re especially useful when the models are used directly for 3D-printing or CNC routing. The coral you see here is entirely generated from a 3D-model. Our production printers have four heads which can work simultaneously for quick delivery. Additionally, if a client requires a single large-format piece our print-bed is 20″x14″x25.5″. That doesn’t mean we’re limited to smaller projects: check out Bridgewater’s other 3D Printing Projects— including an entirely 3D-printed Japanese Spider Crab. It’s made out of smaller parts that are then cemented together, hard-coated, and resin-finished into a complete body.

From 3D model to real 3D

For some projects, there might be absolutely no digital fabrication. However, the complex geometries and intricate shapes that sit atop the bus shelter were all digitally fabricated. The same models helped to generate the shop drawings! Here (right photo) one of our employees uses a sophisticated 3D-modeling software to sculpt the octopus, “rig” up digital bones, and use those “bones” to adjust the position of the octopus’ tentacles. Once it’s positioned to the client’s liking, the model can be used to extract toolpaths if that part is CNC routed.

Full-scale production

Next, once the shop drawings have been approved and the bill of materials is set, our show goes into full-scale production mode. Here you can see the the octopus’ tentacles, CNC routed from high-density foam. Since the octopus is too large (and the shape too complex) to be manufactured from a solid stock, it must be manufactured in pieces and then carefully assembled.

Design problem-solving

There are a whole set of difficult design decisions that arise during fabrication. The bus shelter needs to be able to stand up to harsh weather-conditions. The CNC routed foam will be resin-coated and sealed. Before that, a Bridgewater professional carefully cleans up the edges and seams. An aluminum tube extends all the way through the center for added stability, and in order to connect the many segments. When it’s together, it really looks like one piece!

Particle-free enclosure

The process for assembling the octopus involves a great deal of sophisticated bonding agents and resins. It’s can get complicated— but that’s why we’re here! The time and hard work pays off. Here you can see the fully self-structured octopus hung for finishing. Advanced projects like this can receive upwards of 10 different layers of hard-coating, resins, primers, and paint. For this reason, the surface must be kept meticulously clean, and so it is brought into a sealed enclosure. Our finishing specialist suits up head-to-toe so as not to mar the subjects’ surfaces.

Finishing the CNC routed octopus

Much of the Bridgewater team is extremely creative and artistic. Here, one of our artists carefully puts some of the final touches onto the octopus. All of the specialty paints and finishes are carefully mixed and applied. The skin of the octopus has also been treated with a stiff applique. This gives it more dimension and texture. We were thrilled with the results!

Final assembly

The octopus and anemone are permanently fixed to the sandy roof of the bus shelter. It was carefully measured to fit on one of Chicago’s traditional bus shelters. In this photo, in addition to the CNC routed lettering, you can see the carefully crafted wooden jig— it’s shape is identical to that of the actual bus shelter roof on which it is yet to be installed. Looking great!

On-site installation and other CNC routed projects

A few employees from Bridgwater Studio go out to the site for the install. Finally, the finished CNC routed octopus is fixed atop the bus shelter. The clear panels are directly printed with the Shedd logo and tagline “Unbelievable Lives Here”. If you get the chance, go see it in person at State and Lake Street before it’s gone! Check out our other CNC Routing Projects or call Bridgewater Studio today at (312) 702-1335 to see your own custom fabrication come to life!

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