2017 / 2018 Cambridge, MA, USA.
Design of a Multi-agent, Fiber Composite Digital Fabrication System
Markus Kayser, Levi Cai, Christoph Bader, Sara Falcone, Nassia Inglessis, Barrak Darweesh, João Costa, and Prof. Neri Oxman.
The Fiberbot project was developed by The Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab.
FIBERBOTS is a digital fabrication platform fusing cooperative robotic manufacturing with abilities to generate highly sophisticated material architectures. The platform can enable design and digital fabrication of large-scale structures with high spatial resolution leveraging mobile fabrication nodes, or robotic ‘agents’, designed to tune the material make-up of the structure being constructed on the fly as informed by their environment.
Some of nature’s most successful organisms collaborate in a swarm fashion. Nature’s builders leverage hierarchical structures in order to control and optimize multiple material properties. Spiders, for instance, spin protein fibers to weave silk webs with tunable local and global material properties, adjusting their material composition and fiber placement to create strong yet flexible structures optimized to capture prey. Other organisms, such as bees, ants, and termites cooperate to rapidly build structures much larger than themselves.
The FIBERBOTS are a swarm of robots designed to wind fiberglass filament around themselves to create high-strength tubular structures. These structures can be built in parallel and interwoven to rapidly create architectural structures. The robots are mobile and use sensor feedback to control the length and curvature of each individual tube according to paths determined by a custom, environmentally informed, flocking-based design protocol. This provides designers the ability to control high-level design parameters that govern the shape of the resulting structure without needing to tediously provide commands for each robot by hand.
The 16 robots, including the design system to control them, were developed in-house and deployed to autonomously create a 4.5m tall structure. The structure remained outside and undamaged through Massachusetts’s winter months, demonstrating the potential of this enabling technology towards future collaborative robotic systems to create once in-feasible designs in potentially far-reaching environments.
Current manufacturing approaches can be classified with respect to two fundamental attributes: (1) the level of communication between fabrication units and (2) the degree of material tailorability. Until now manufacturing paradigms were confined to one of these attribute axes: with certain approaches utilizing sophisticated tailorable material but having virtually no communication and others assembling simple building blocks or pre-fabricated components in a cooperative fashion with high levels of intercommunication.
The majority of current research efforts in swarm construction focus on the aggregation of discrete building components (e.g. blocks or beams) mimicking traditional construction methods. Typically, these systems are developed around specific modular or prefabricated components, which constrain the possible geometries and functionality of the resulting structure. From a design perspective such efforts focus either on duplicating existing rectilinear forms as made by conventional construction methods or on local-to-global models which define sets of behavior in simulation and explore the resulting structures with little focus on physical constraints.
Single node additive Rapid Fabrication (RF) and Rapid Manufacturing (RM) technologies have emerged, since the mid 1980’s, as promising platforms for building construction automation. Whether liquid-based (e.g. stereolithography), powder-based (e.g. selective-laser sintering), or solid-based processes (e.g. fused deposition modeling) – characteristic to such technologies are: (1) the use of mostly nonstructural materials with homogeneous properties; (2) the limitation of product size to gantry size; and (3) the layer-by-layer fabrication of products. A swarm approach to manufacturing can radically transform digital construction by (1) digitally fabricating structural materials; (2) generating products and objects larger than their gantry size; and (3) supporting non-layered construction by offering novel fabrication processes such as robotic weaving and free-form printing. These methods are conducive to function generation, however cannot be easily scaled to large systems. With swarm sensing and actuation, systems can become more responsive and adaptive to environmental conditions. Following Nature’s example, a swarm offers reliability and efficiency through distributed tasks, parallel actuation, and redundancy.
This research seeks to depart from these uniaxial fabrication methods and develop fabrication units capable of being highly communicative while simultaneously depositing tailorable, multifunctional materials. Moreover, we intend to demonstrate that our research framework is applicable across scales: from the micro-scale to the product scale and, uniquely, to the architectural scale.
2013 Cambridge, MA, USA.
Research and Design by the Mediated Matter Research Group at the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Prof. Fiorenzo Omenetto (TUFTS University) and Dr. James Weaver (WYSS Institute, Harvard University).
The Silk Pavilion explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales.The primary structure was created of 26 polygonal panels made of silk threads laid down by a CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) machine. Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk thread (1km in length), the overall geometry of the pavilion was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches providing various degrees of density. Overall density variation was informed by the silkworm itself deployed as a biological printer in the creation of a secondary structure. A swarm of 6,500 silkworms was positioned at the bottom rim of the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches as they locally reinforced the gaps across CNC-deposited silk fibers. Following their pupation stage the silkworms were removed. Resulting moths can produce 1.5 million eggs with the potential of constructing up to 250 additional pavilions. Affected by spatial and environmental conditions including geometrical density as well as variation in natural light and heat, the silkworms were found to migrate to darker and denser areas. Desired light effects informed variations in material organization across the surface area of the structure. A season-specific sun path diagram mapping solar trajectories in space dictated the location, size and density of apertures within the structure in order to lock-in rays of natural light entering the pavilion from South and East elevations. The central oculus is located against the East elevation and may be used as a sun-clock. Parallel basic research explored the use of silkworms as entities that can “compute” material organization based on external performance criteria. Specifically, we explored the formation of non-woven fiber structures generated by the silkworms as a computational schema for determining shape and material optimization of fiber-based surface structures.
2011 Markus Kayser, Royal College of Art, London | Egypt | Morocco
In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.
In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.
Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource - the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.
2014 Cambridge, MA, USA.
The Mediated Matter Group in collaboration with MIT's Department of Mechnical Engineering and MIT's Glass Lab. Additional researchers include Shreya Dave (MIT MechE) and James Weaver (WYSS Institute, Harvard).
Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass
Ancient yet modern, enclosing yet invisible, glass was first created in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago. Precise recipes for its production - the chemistry and techniques - often remain closely guarded secrets. Glass can be molded, formed, blown, plated or sintered; its formal qualities are closely tied to techniques used for its formation. From the discovery of core-forming process for bead-making in ancient Egypt, through the invention of the metal blow pipe during Roman times, to the modern industrial Pilkington process for making large-scale flat glass; each new breakthrough in glass technology occurred as a result of prolonged experimentation and ingenuity, and has given rise to a new universe of possibilities for uses of the material. This show unveils a first of its kind optically transparent glass printing process called G3DP. G3DP is an additive manufacturing platform designed to print optically transparent glass. The tunability enabled by geometrical and optical variation driven by form, transparency and color variation can drive; limit or control light transmission, reflection and refraction, and therefore carries significant implications for all things glass. The platform is based on a dual heated chamber concept. The upper chamber acts as a Kiln Cartridge while the lower chamber serves to anneal the structures. The Kiln Cartridge operates at approximately 1900°F and can contain sufficient material to build a single architectural component. The molten material gets funneled through an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle. The project synthesizes modern technologies, with age-old established glass tools and technologies producing novel glass structures with numerous potential applications.
A selection of Glass pieces will appear in an exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2016. The full text version of Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass will appear in the September 2015 issue (Vol. 2, Issue 3) of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing (3DP+), under the Editorial leadership of Skylar Tibbits, Director of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab. Details and complete information on 3DP+ can be found at here. The patent Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass was filed on April 25 of 2014.
2016 Cambridge, MA, USA.
The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab.
A Perpetual Spring Environment for Bees and Humans
The Synthetic Apiary explores the possibility of a controlled space in which seasonal honeybees can thrive year-round. Light, humidity, and temperature are engineered to simulate a perpetual spring environment. Bees are provided with synthetic pollen and sugared water, and evaluated regularly for health and wellbeing. In this initial experiment, humans and honeybees co-habitate, enabling natural cultivation in an artificial space across scales, from organism- to building-scale.
In the apiary, the Queen's biological cycle adapts to the new environment inducing egg laying. These bees exist only in the Synthetic Apiary, but as adult bees are able to function normally in their natural environment with their innate behavior repertoires. Minute 2:33 in the video documents the first birth in a synthetic environment: the only life this bee knows is of an existence in the Synthetic Apiary.
The Synthetic Apiary bridges the organism- and building-scale by exploring a “keystone species": bees. We investigate the cohabitation of humans and bees through a controlled atmosphere and observation of resulting behaviors. The project applies Mediated Matter’s ongoing research into biologically augmented digital fabrication with silkworms and eusocial insect communities to product, architectural, and possibly urban, scales. Many insect communities present collective behavior known as “swarming,” prioritizing group over individual survival, while constantly working to achieve common goals. Often, groups of these eusocial organisms leverage collaborative behavior for relatively large-scale construction. For example, ants create extremely complex networks by tunneling, wasps generate intricate paper nests with materials sourced from local areas, and bees deposit wax to build intricate hive structures.
Honeybees are ideal model organisms because of the historical interplay between their communities and humans. Bees, as agents of cross-pollination, are an essential part of our agricultural production; without them, we would not have the fruits and the vegetables that nourish our lives. Natural honeybee hives can house tens of thousands of insects, all working together as prescribed by a social division of labor. Large-scale hives are made of beeswax and are used for food storage and brood development, as well as shelter. As of now, comparatively little is known about what factors influence the form and structure of hives, though several recent projects have explored using bees as builders or 'fabricators’ in collaboration with humans.
Massive decline in bees worldwide, due to various factors affecting bee health such as agricultural chemicals, disease, and habitat loss, has raised alarm. As such, the cultivation of bees, the education about their health, and the advancement of non-standard bee environments has become increasingly important for their survival, and for ours. Our architectural experiment incorporates several technological and biological investigations, and provides a setup for behavioral experiments regarding both bee fabrication capabilities and health. At the core of this project is the creation of an entirely synthetic environment enabling controlled, large-scale investigations of hives. As shown in the video at time 2:33, eggs are laid in the synthetic environment, indicating a successful combination of temperature, humidity, light, and nutrition for queens. This proves the ability to shift the entire cycle of bee behavior, out of winter mode and into spring mode – and is a first demonstration of sustainable life in a completely synthetic environment. The long-term goal is to integrate biology into a new kind of architectural environment, and thereby the city, for the benefit of humans and eusocial organisms.
Research and Design by the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab. Lead researchers include Markus Kayser, Sunanda Sharma, Jorge Duro-Royo, Christoph Bader, Dominik Kolb, and Prof. Neri Oxman (Group Director). The Synthetic Apiary team wishes to convey gratitude to Mori Building Company for their generous sponsorship of this project. We would also like to acknowledge the Mori Art Museum and Loftworks for their support. Collaborators include: The Best Bees Company: Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, Philip Norwood, Jessica O’Keefe, Rachel Diaz-Granados; Dr. James Weaver (Wyss Institute); Dr. Anne Madden (North Carolina State University); Space Managers Andy and Susan Magdanz; and Daniel Maher. Videographers: James Day and the Mediated Matter group. Media Lab Facilities: Jessica Tsymbal and Kevin Davis. MIT EHS: Lorena Altamirano.
The sun cutter project explores the potential of harnessing sunlight directly to produce objects. the machine is a low-tech, low energy version of a laser cutter. it uses pure sunlight, focused by a ball lens, to repeatedly cut programmed shapes in up to 0.4mm thick plywood as well as paper and card.
The project also explores the merit of analogue mechanized production that draws on the machine technology found in pre-digital machinery and automaton. it uses a cam system, moving an x & y- board to control the shape of the cut. the cams are set into synchronized motion by a small solar-powered motor driving a timing belt.
Each pair of sunglasses made, even though very similar in shape, is still unique, creating a juxtaposition between the machine-made, repetitive and individual, unique object.
Markus kayser, Amos Field Reid, Steve Clutton, Jess Corteen and Rentaro Nishimura and William Warren
The Thonet Project is an exploration of replacement seat solutions by six young designers for six No.14 bentwood chairs to mark the 150th anniversary of Thonet’s design. Markus kayser and fellow students Amos Field Reid, Steve Clutton, Jess Corteen and Rentaro Nishimura formed a group alongside their lecturer, the designer William Warren and set out to explore replacement seat solutions to six Thonet chairs without seats.
The underlying thinking was that this situation was potentially echoed around the world: there are several hundred million Thonet bentwoods thought to be in existence but how many are out of service simply because their seats are missing? Everyone found a different solution to fill the void in this classic chair. Kayser created a concave mirror surface, as if the void was never filled while still bringing back the functionality of the chair.
Photo © Ivan Coleman
Apples & Pears are portable lights, that through a playful juxtaposition of the everyday forms of the apple, light bulb and stereo cable result in the user picking these illuminated objects like ripe fruit from a tree.
Basel, Switzerland | Design Miami/Basel Exhibition
Kayser’s LIGHTzeit explores how natural light constantly changes through motion, intensity and color rendering, whereas most artificial light sources are entirely static. LIGHTzeit is a minimal light installation resembling the ever-static tubular lights widely used in offices and public spaces. But this light picks up the notion of light in transition by constantly, but unnoticeably, travelling in a 24-hour cycle, 360-degrees around its axle like clockwork. While the position of the light changes, the light’s qualities adjust in color temperature and intensity throughout the day, reconnecting it to the natural rhythm. The user can set the place and time of day by an interactive switch in the form of an abstract world globe.
PaC is made from one flat sheet. By using an archetypal shape of a chair, the remaining parts of a square create the three-dimensional chair structure. The chair is hung to the wall as a picture, which shows the silhouette of a chair. It is the extra chair that is only needed sometimes, the rest of the time its just a picture of a chair and over time the piece ‘weathers’ through use and abuse.
The Red & White glass makes two sets of glasses unnecessary. First the white and then the red is a common habit, so ‘empty your glasses, we gonna move to red now’.
The Grow! coat hanger is designed to last. The hooks can be adjusted to a child’s height, always ergonomically perfect to hang up your coat however tall or small you are. It grows with the child into adulthood, marking the child’s growing process on the wood. The pen marks on the wood remain when the child moved out of the house and are of nostalgic value for the parents.
This lampshade is a combination of a found classic lamp- shade frame and cable ties. It creates a star-like shadow pattern, which is adjustable by twisting the cable ties into different directions.
The Audrey sofa is made as a gift after the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.
The bulb light is an LED light, making use of the light em- mitting qualities of acrylic sheets. The light is send into the material via the outside shape of the bulb and sends the light to the laser-cut coil in the middle of the bulb, lighting it up.