Neri Oxman, founder of the Mediated Matter Group at MIT’s Media Lab, believes that one day everything will be designed by nature.

The Mediated Matter Group’s mission statement reads something like a manifesto. “The Mediated Matter group is dedicated to the development and application of novel processes that enable and support the design of physical matter, and its adaptability to environmental conditions in the creation of form. Our research integrates computational form-finding strategies with biologically inspired fabrication… Our goal is to enhance the relation between natural and man-made environments by achieving high degrees of design customization and versatility, environmental performance integration, and material efficiency. We seek to establish new forms of design and novel processes of material practice at the intersection of computer science, material engineering, design and ecology, with broad applications across multiple scales."

Okay, okay, so there’s a lot to unpack in the Mediated Matter Group’s mission statement, but what it all boils down to is this: The Mediated Matter Group is working towards a new paradigm where the processes of design and manufacturing mimic material conditions and manufacturing techniques found in nature.

But what does all of that have to do with 3D printing?

Well, currently the lab is using 3D printing as tool in many of its research projects, all of which are pushing the boundaries of design ideas and principles.

One of the projects that I found most interesting is titled: “3D Printing of Functionally Graded Materials”. The goal of the project is to develop a 3D printer capable of producing objects with materials that gradually transition from one to another.

According to the project’s summary, “Functionally graded materials–materials with spatially varying composition or microstructure–are omnipresent in nature. From palm trees with radial density gradients, to the spongy trabeculae structure of bone…graded materials offer material and structural efficiency.”

In the end, the project hopes to be able to print structures that can adapt their material density to correspond to the necessary strength required along the length of an object, similar to the way that bones are formed.

I encourage everyone to take a look at the work going on in Oxman’s lab. If her ideas about additive manufacturing come to fruition, we’re in for quite an amazing future.

To learn more about Neri Oxman and her work, watch the video below:

Images and video courtesy of MIT, Wikipedia and CNN.

 

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