MIT Researchers Use Silkworms As Biological 3D Printer [Video]

Pavillion made of the natural material explores relationship between organic structures and digital fabrication.

MIT Media Lab’s Silk Pavilion is a structure made up of panels of CNC-cut silk (Computer-Numerically-Controlled) threads, with 6,500 silkworms spinning silk patches to create 26 polygonal panels. A computer emulated the behavior of the silkworms in the construction of the primary installation, and the silkworms were used as a biological “printer” to create the secondary structure.

The initiative is being led by Neri Oxman of MIT’s Mediated Matter. Her thought leadership is typified by drawing inspiration from organic matter and biology.

The project reflects a bold effort to innovate based on observations in nature and investigate how digital fabrication can lead to new material formation processes. The project is inspired by the observation of how silkworms create 3D cocoons using a silk thread. This natural behavior was recreated through an algorithm that captures everything from the cocoon’s geometry to the way the silkworm will create varying levels of density.

Silkworm Pavillion

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