Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'Create more' Nature, Design, and Fabrication with 3D Printing

Today’s guest blog is from Daniela Bertol of space ink.

Geometry is present in the world of nature, at any scale. Almost every form found in our physical environment —waves, clouds, galaxies, cells, bird wings, leaves, seashells— follows geometrical configurations, either resembling the familiar shapes of our elementary school geometry or more complex fractals and recursions. The understanding of the geometric rules and forms underlying natural forms can hold lessons for the design of the manmade world, by capturing the structural efficiency of the form itself and leading to the proper choice of materials.

In my latest book, Form Geometry Structure From Nature to Design, I explored many familiar forms found in nature. I tried to understand the geometry behind each form and recreated it as a digital model from the algorithmic rules the form is based on.

Of the many shapes explored, I found the nautilus shell one of the most intriguing and valuable for design applications. The nautilus has a bone structure externalized in a shell, which is divided into chambers and delineated by septa. The nautilus grows and creates a new larger camera, where it moves its body and seals the previous smaller chamber with a septum. The shell shape is based on a logarithmic spiral, a geometrical configuration which remains unchanged at any scale of growth. Inspired by the nautilus for the design of a large span structure, I recreated a parametric associative model of the shell in Bentley GenerativeComponents. The design model followed the nautilus morphological characteristics: the septa represent the main structural system connected by a secondary system of ribs.

The digital model, although visually and formally complex, was fairly easy to generate thanks to the associative parametric software, which allowed many explorations to finally achieve the appropriate proportion and thickness of the structural ribs. Renderings of the nautilus models were chosen for the book cover, as one of the forms which best explains the main theme: how the geometry found in forms from nature can provide design models.

The publisher was also interested in including in the cover photos from a 3D printed physical model. The fabrication of the nautilus model resulted instead into a quite laborious process: the level of detail caused several 3D printers to fail in their fabrication effort. Finally the digital model file was sent to Z Corporation and successfully printed with the ZPrinter 650, which was able to produce a high level of detail.

Seeing and touching the 3D printed model of the nautilus represents a demonstration of the theme of the book and closes a loop from the physical to the digital world, as interpreted by a designer: from nature to geometry to design and finally back to objects.