Shape-Shifting Sphere Explores The Artistic Possibilities Of 3D-Printing

Interlocking gears in a mechanical object is a miniature masterpiece.

Rachel Pincus
Rachel Pincus on December 12, 2013.

New fabrication technologies may have virtually infinite applications in the near future, from medicine to music to even underwear, but if we’re really going to get comfortable with 3D-printed plastics, it’s useful to find them in those handy little desktop buddies – our fidget toys that we constantly turn to for relief in moments of frustration.

Enter the Mechaneu, an intricate and intriguing kinetic object that comes fully assembled and features 64 interlocking gears. The Mechaneu takes full advantage of these materials by providing a system of layered gears as well as a surface texture that mimics many natural patterns and stimulates the mind. The object is simultaneously porous and solid and moves entirely based on its own internal logic and 5-3 gear ratio. ”In nature shape is cheap and energy is expensive. Nature solves many problems through shape alone, using material only where needed and taking out where unnecessary,” said designer Toru Hasegawa.

This is one of the first times that so much thought has been put into its physical execution. 3D printing, particularly in certain materials such as Polished Strong and Flexible plastic, has a capacity for incorporating detail that has yet to be explored except by an intrepid few. Building brilliant shapes will continue to be the focus of the artists at Proxy as they work with 3D design software (the same, they say, that is used for designing buildings), so one day the current model, which retails for $198.95, might be replaced with a version that is cheaper or tougher.

“Something happens between the hand and the brain when you pick up the object and start to engage the gears. It taps into a fundamental desire to see our actions multiplied and intensified,” wrote Mark Collins, a designer and partner in the studio.

Proxy Design Studio

Sources, Images: Shapeways, Gizmodo