What do you get when you combine nature and machine? Researchers at MIT Media Lab‘s Mediated Matter group have asked themselves that same question. Their answer, a dome created from silk fibers woven by a robotic arm, and finished by live silk worms.
Silk Pavilion is an exploration of ways of overcoming the existing limitations of additive manufacturing at architectural scales.
“The project is intended to explore how digital and biological fabrication techniques can be combined to produce architectural structures.”
The process involves the robotic arm creating several silk fiber panels that are arranged in a dome and suspended from the ceiling. The structure was then completed by live silkworms.
The researchers attached tiny magnets on the heads of the silkworms to capture data on how the worms construct their cocoons. This data was then used to program the robotic arm to deposit silk fibers, much like the worms would.
According to Mediated Matter group director Neri Oxman, the experiment’s goals were: “Our aim was to translate the motion-capture data into a 3D printer connected to a robotic arm in order to study the biological structure in larger scales.”