Design and technology are often perceived as two separate unrelated areas, different methodologies used to achieve different objectives. However, these two fields should feed and enrich each other, one can’t develop fully without the other. Technology can’t be used unless it is made accessible via design – in a world over-saturated with products it’s not enough to have a functional product, a product is also chosen for its aesthetics and user experience. On one hand, design pushes the boundaries of technology, on the other hand, technology furthers the development of designed products as well as their production methods. Increasingly we see 3D printing used in the manufacturing of products, forming a bridge between design and technology, advancing them both at the same time. Here are a few examples of products and projects where 3D printed design plays a central role.
Sensing and reacting
Caress of the Gaze (above) is a 3D printed garment that senses other people’s gaze and responds accordingly with life-like behavior. The garment was designed by Behnaz Farahi in collaboration with Autodesk Pier 9 and MADWORKSHOP. Our skin is a complex system of sensors which can detect physical changes, as well as emotional ones. Caress of the Gaze functions as an artificial skin, examining the possibilities of a skin-like interface between body and world. The project explores 3D printing and the tectonic properties of the material, allowing the fabrication of composite materials with varying density and behaviors, being printed in a single print run.
Freedom of scale
Dutch designer Joris Laarman will build a 3D printed steel bridge over an Amsterdam canal . In order to do so, he has launched a new company called MX3D to further develop the technology that is used to build the bridge. MX3D equips industrial multi-axis robots with 3D tools and develops the software to control them (above). Their aim is creating cost-effective robotic technology that will allow 3D printing of strong and complex structures in a variety of scales.
Water-based Digital Fabrication Platform, by Mediated Matter, is a project developing ways to 3D print natural materials. Chitin – the most abundant renewable polymer in the ocean, and the second most abundant polymer on the planet, is a natural polymer, easy and inexpensive to obtain and at the same time fully recyclable. The MIT team are 3D printing with the water-based fabrication platform chitosan-based structural members (above).
Inspired by Nature
The biomimetic grille in NightHawk’s Headphones (above) was inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings. NightHawk grille’s intricate structure diffuses sound and defeats the resonances that distort and damage. It is produced with 3D printing (process below) ensuring manufacturing precision while minimizing production waste.
The fast pace of Additive Manufacturing allows products such as the hearing aid to be optimized quickly to the end consumer (video above). Phonak uses an impression of the patient’s ear canal and manufactures a 3D printed hearing aid (below) incorporating all the necessary elements and fitted perfectly to the individual ear.
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