My name is Steven Keating and I am a
graduate research assistant here in the Mediated
Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Behind me is one of our test platforms for 3-D
printing here. It's a robotic arm, and by attaching
different extruder heads, we can test out different
material combinations and designs.
3-D printing was invented at MIT and it is a
manufacturing technology, which allows one to
generate complex three-dimensional forms
by laying down successive layers of material
one on top of the other. Our goal here at the
Mediated Matter Group is to explore processes
for digital fabrication, like 3-D printing, that are
inspired by nature, with the belief that we're going
to emerge on the other side generating and making
things that are more efficient and more effective.
For instance, right now, it has a modified maker
bot head on it, which prints ABS plastic making parts
like this. We can attach different heads though, for
instance this is a high-density polyethylene head and
we can put in cut-up milk jugs and actually print
with recycled plastic. Or, we are looking at working
with concrete, and making extruder heads that
can control the density of the concrete as it comes out
Here is a sample which shows a functional gradient
of density in concrete. So, as we move from the rim to
the core, we see actually a decrease in density from
a solid structure to a much more cellular structure.
This is the same thing you'd see in bones or palm trees
and is actually a much more efficient structure in
terms of weight and strength.
So at the end, we are really interested in bringing
together the industrial world and the natural world
to generate 3-D printing platforms that are
biologically inspired. And for us, that means 3-D
printing materials that can vary in properties that
over space but also over time.