MIT has unveiled plans to 3D print a pavilion inspired by the technique that silkworms use to build their cocoons. Data that tracks the movement of a silkworm as it makes its pupal casing will be fed into a robotic arm, which will weave a cocoon-like 3D structure that is tough on the outside but softer on the inside.
The 12’x12′ pavilion is being developed in collaboration between MIT Media Lab, the WYSS Institute at Harvard University and TUFTS University. The team, led by architect and Mediated Matter Group founder Neri Oxman, is focused on experimenting with multi-scalar composite shell environments through a process of analysis and feedback.
According to the team’s research, silkworms adjust the density of the silk threads by rotating their heads in figure-eight patterns. As the worms construct their cocoons, the wall casing takes on a form in which the material is tough on the outside and soft on the inside. By mimicking the building techniques and patterns of silkworms, the scientists aim to create a 3D printer that will print in larger scales than the currently used ones and achieve more complex materiality.
The pavilion, which is slated to be unveiled on April 22nd, opens a way for achieving synthesis between biology, material science, and computation. The new technology will allow the building of embedded, performance-based designs at a habitable scale.
+ MIT Media Lab
Photos by Flickr users Nina Matthews and Sarah Twitchel