By Cyndy Moniz l Controller/Office Manager
Nature is a source of endless fascination for me. The world is full of beautiful creatures and plant life displaying intricate patterns, colors and textures. One of my favorite pastimes is photographing birds and other creatures in their natural habitat. I also enjoy turning ideas upside down and looking at things from a totally different perspective.
So recently, I decided to google “Nature and 3D Printing”. The search resulted in examples of inventions and studies involving Biomimetics. “Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems”. Engineers and designers are developing new technologies inspired by the processes and adaptations of organisms. This is not new - artists and scientists have always been inspired by nature, but what is new is the approach. Researchers are examining the actual process and creating designs and solutions that mimic the biological adaptations. And now with the availability of more advanced 3D printers, whole new opportunities are unfolding!
Pretty amazing! Like the work that is being done by Professor Neri Oxman at MIT Media Lab. She’s an architect and designer and was included on ICON's list of the top 20 most influential architects to shape our future (2009), and was selected as one of the 100 most creative people by FASTCOMPANY (2009).. See the video here!
Here’s an example of a design using Biomimetics. American and Israeli researchers have created body armor for the US Army inspired by the flexibility of fish scales. The prototype of the body armor was developed by MIT and Technion using the Stratasys Objet500 Connex. The design combined a hard outer layer of scales with a softer, more flexible layer underneath- just like a real fish! Check out this additional article here.
I also came across the work of American natural sciences writer and innovation consultant, Janine Benyus. She is the author of “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” and the President of a non-profit organization, The Biomimicry Institute. This organization promotes sustainable designs and solutions. Listen to Janine Benyus' two minute explanation of biomimicry.
For more information check out this wonderful resource for designers, engineers, educators and students. This curated library contains free information on natural phenomena and includes hundreds of bio-inspired applications – a treasure trove for entrepreneurs and innovators. Bookmark this site for future reference - and be sure to come to us when you’re ready to build that 3D printed prototype!
Opportunities to design sustainable products and strategies with additive manufacturing are multiplying as our society plans for a greener future. It’s strange to think of something as futuristic as 3D Printing being associated with nature but this technology has the potential to improve the quality of our lives and preserve our environment if we modify the way that we think and create.
All images taken by Cyndy Moniz.