AAVS 2016 – Sweetest CNC Machine

AA Visiting School 2016 Hong Kong – The Sweetest CNC Machine

The sweetest CNC machine is a 11-day robotics workshop in the Architectural Association Visiting School (Hong Kong) led by Victor Leung in July 2016. It is a workshop for participants interested in deeper knowledge about CNC control, robotics and 3D printing.



The workshop contains theoretical and practical sessions where students learn how to construct a CNC machine from scratch. Topics include stepper motor theory, motion control, CNC control, mechanical principles, motion transfer,precision mechanics, electronics, drivers, temperature control, G-Code programming, CAD CAM programming. Students go through a fast paced learning experience with a lot of hand-on participation to put the theory they learnt into practice.


Students build their own three axis 3D printer in teams of three. They start from basic mechanical components such as beams and bearings to construct a very complex machine. The machine is designed by Victor as a learning experience that grew in complexity form a single axis linear stage to a four-motor, three-axis, temperature controlled 3D printer. Makeblock modular robotics components allow students to quickly construct mechanical systems without lengthy machining process, their modular approach also allows students to make inexpensive mistakes and learn from it. Victor used a web animation he developed during his MIT thesis to deliver complex assembly instructions in an understandable way. Students without engineering background are able to quickly learn how components are put together.


The Sweetest CNC Machine

The sugar 3D printer developed by Victor is an indirect copy from the glass 3D printing project developed in MIT Media Lab. They both used a gravity feeding system from a temperature stabilized reservoir. Chikara Inamura from the Mediated Matter Lab helped designed the sugar printer, explaining the similarity of both molten sugar and molten glass as essentially slow flowing sticky liquid.

While 3D Printing technology is often portrayed by the media as the next manufacturing revolution. The general public typically have little understanding of the complexity involved when selecting and engineering a material suitable for the 3D printing process. The Dunning–Kruger effect seen in many people as they believe almost any material can be 3D printed is uncanny.  On the other hand, the common pessimism (particular in architecture schools) that accuse 3D printers for the lack of materiality, is another naive misunderstanding in the opposite end.

This molten sugar 3D printer designed by Victor serves no practical purpose other than printing colourful sculptures. The sculptures are way too unhealthy to eat, spontaneously melt in high humidity and attracts unwanted insects. However, it’s true purpose is the educational experience for students to explore the technology that enabled 3D printing in detailed depth. Understanding the complexity of CNC controlled robotics and fascinating material science that allowed us to appreciate the 3D printer as a marvel combination of the two science.




These ring shaped prints are demonstrated to the students as case studies of what the printer is capable of making.


Students work