Researchers at MIT Media Lab's Mediated Matter group have created a dome from silk fibers woven by a robotic arm, which was then finished by live silkworms.
The project is intended to explore how digital and biological fabrication techniques can be combined to produce architectural structures. The team programmed the robotic arm to imitate the way a silkworm deposits silk to build its cocoon. The arm then deposited a kilometer-long silk fiber across flat polygonal metal frames to create 26 panels. These panels were arranged to form a dome, which was suspended from the ceiling.
6500 live silkworms were then placed on the structure. As the caterpillars crawled over the dome, they deposited silk fibres and completed the structure.
The Silk Pavilion was designed and constructed at the MIT Media Lab as part of a research project to explore ways of overcoming the existing limitations of additive manufacturing at architectural scales.
Mediated Matter group director Neri Oxman believes that by studying natural processes such as the way silkworms build their cocoons, scientists can develop ways of "printing" architectural structures more efficiently than can be achieved by current 3D printing technologies.
“In traditional 3D printing the gantry-size poses an obvious limitation; it is defined by three axes and typically requires the use of support material, both of which are limiting for the designer who wishes to print in larger scales and achieve structural and material complexity,” Oxman said earlier this year. “Once we place a 3D printing head on a robotic arm, we free up these limitations almost instantly." Their research also showed that the worms were attracted to darker areas, so fibers were laid more sparsely on the sunnier south and east elevations of the dome.
y Electric Cars, the European subsidiary of Green Automotive Company, has completed the build of the first fully functioning example of “DELIVER”—an electric light commercial delivery vehicle funded by the European Commissions’ 7th Framework Programme.
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