We are in the midst of a revolution that promises to forever change how we make things. At one extreme, software tools are empowering individuals to envision, create and share their own designs; while at another, low-cost digital fabrication machines are allowing these one-of-a-kind creations to be built and consumed from the comfort of our homes. However, while 3D printers are becoming increasingly accessible and capable of rivaling the quality of professional equipment, they are still inherently limited by a small print volume, placing severe constraints on the type and scale of objects we can create.
For The Next Idea, the team of Formlabs proposes to address this problem by identifying computational and material folding strategies that will allow large scale objects to be compressed into a minimal volume to maximize the printing capability of desktop 3D printers. The folding techniques they develop will be exemplified and embodied through a series of representative furniture pieces, and their fundamental principles and designs will be openly published and distributed to encourage others to learn from, use and modify our work.
Folding as a computational design and assembly strategy can be found across natural systems, such as in the structures of proteins and DNA, and in industrial applications, which seek to increase efficiency while supporting high degrees of structural complexity, interoperability and reuse.
With Ars Electronica support, the Formlabs team plan to: identify and analyze a series of folding strategies; perform material and mechanical tests; design universal and programmable hinges that can be printed as a single piece (and be reversed for disassembly); and make a final archetypal furniture piece that can support, evaluate and communicate our work.
And here is a video of Skylar Tibbits’ 4D printing research: