Startup Expansion Coaching: Interview with the “geometry gods” of Feasible.
“We don’t want the world to look just right-because people aren’t either.“DI Heinz Schmiedhofer and DI Martin Reis, Co-Founder from “feasible geometry-consulting OG
Feasible brings complex geometries beyond orthogonality from the drawing board to manufacturing. As soon as geometries become more complex and structures no longer have right angles, manufacturing processes become difficult and expensive. With the help of the funding program, “creative_project” of the Vienna Business Agency (a fund of the City of Vienna), Feasible and its project partner Rechenraum developed the software package ‘BOXER’: Non-rectangular structures can be brought into production without exploding costs.
Read the interview with the managing directors about non-orthogonal geometries, what will be possible in manufacturing in the construction sector in the future, and how they approach further expansion.
How did Feasible come about, what do you do and what do you like about each other as co-founders?
Heinz & Martin: With Feasible, we support individuals and companies working in the creative fields of design and architecture in the production of geometrically complex structures.
We met at the Institute for Discrete Mathematics and Geometry at the Vienna University of Technology. We both worked there in the scientific field, and therefore have a very profound knowledge of geometries, especially in the field of construction. Besides our understanding of design, in which we converge relatively strongly, this is our common basis. In addition, we both teach at the Vienna University of Technology and are therefore methodologically always at the cutting edge of science. Despite all the technical similarities, we also share a similar understanding of humor.
Heinz: Martin is very good at implementing designs, and a professional when it comes to building. He is the most precise person I know and has a stunning flair for design. This complements great with my expertise in software. I’m better at understanding geometry, even though Martin calls himself the “God of Geometry” (laughs).
Martin: I don’t refer to myself that way – rather, I’m addressed that way when someone makes a geometric request of me. It then goes like this: “You are the geometry god …”
In the design process, I always have concrete production in mind as well. For us, the creative phase is characterized both by the very early question of concrete manufacturing methods and, on the other hand, by visions of implementation that are perhaps not yet state of the art. In this area of tension, we develop forms and methods for implementation by creating our own tools for planning and realization.
You have developed BOXER, how is the feedback so far?
Heinz & Martin: With BOXER, we are making part of our self-developed tools publicly available for the first time. We realized that we had repeatedly developed similar solutions for different projects and set out to find the common denominator in the various applications. The result was the BOXER software, which acts as an interface between designers and manufacturing, for geometries that do not necessarily have to be orthogonal. BOXER is used to implement complex structures using sheet material that is machined by computer-controlled cutting processes across multiple machine axes.
The feedback on the software so far includes a basic statement: “One can implement more geometrically with BOXER than planners had previously expected within the framework of technical and budgetary constraints. From the planning process to production, possibilities are created that did not exist before. This increases the diversity of parts in our built environment because more complex shapes can be implemented in a playful way.”
Where has BOXER’s methodology been used so far?
Heinz & Martin: For example, at the Landesausstellung Niederösterreich in the Hainburg tobacco factory. Here, the PLANET Architects team wanted to design an exhibition landscape for which geometric boundary conditions had already been predefined, namely skewed slabs in space that intersect each other. This is difficult to plan because changes to one plate affect the structure of the surrounding plates. For this purpose, we developed software at that time that allows a particular polyhedral design within the geometric constraints. This resulted in a structure in which the slabs could be automatically intersected in any number of layers. With our tool, the design could be implemented at a quarter of the cost of a traditional design. The saved budget could thus be used for an even more child-friendly design of the exhibition. This software was one of the main sources of inspiration for BOXER.
Another project, for example, was the construction of a private art gallery in the Palais Rasumofsky in Vienna’s third district. Here, a mezzanine floor made of reinforced concrete was planted into the existing building. The geometrically complex side surfaces of this object were formed using molds produced by a similar technology that we now use for BOXER: hot-wire cut XPS panels.
Why did you go into the business agency’s Startup Expansion Coaching program?
Heinz: Since we mainly develop on a project basis, marketing a software product was new territory for us. That’s why we applied for admission to the Startup Expansion Coaching Program of the Business Agency, and that’s where we met Petra. We wanted to use the coaching to discuss and realistically plan the next steps for marketing.
Martin: The coaching was also good preparation for another funding application to the Vienna Business Agency, this time in the “creative-to-market” program, as well as for planning our resources in the “go-to-market” strategy.
The coaching has immensely broadened our perception on areas such as business, pricing, and licensing models, and has been extremely helpful in fine-tuning our core target groups in order to target marketing accordingly. We clarified several issues: Who can afford the product? Who wants to afford it? Where is the demand greatest? Where is the product most needed?
What are your concrete next steps with BOXER?
Heinz & Martin: We are just starting to implement the marketing as we have worked it out together. In order to test the producibility, we are currently implementing a model study, a structure consisting of 150 hexagonal panels of different shapes and sizes, which we will bring into production with BOXER. The original design pattern, incidentally the result of a research project at the Vienna University of Technology, has very favorable geometric properties with regard to panelization. It is read in by BOXER in order to generate concrete panel geometries. These are arranged for production in the most space-saving way possible in order to suffer as little material loss as possible. This will be a new area of application. Overall, BOXER will be available to manufacture companies and planners from mid-2017, initially as a plug-in for the Rhinoceros 3D CAD platform.
In the long term, we see ourselves as the “missing link” between planners and manufacturing, and we want to expand this further.
Thank you very much for the interview – we wish you all the best in the further development and marketing of BOXER. I am looking forward to the completed projects.