The Tibbits Self-Assembly Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proved that specific geometric shapes can generate self-organized sandbanks and beaches through research conducted in a tank that simulates ocean conditions.
In order to experiment with this method in reality, we are currently conducting field experiments with a team called Invena in the Maldives based on laboratory work. The team is located in a series of islands or atolls in the Indian Ocean, many of which are in danger of erosion and the worst. The situation is submerged by rising sea levels.
Wind and waves naturally accumulate sandbars in the marine environment, just like nature sweeps them away. The idea of the Maldives project is to use the power of the waves and the interaction with specially placed underwater water sacs to promote the accumulation of sand that is most needed to protect the coast from flooding, rather than to build a land barrier that is inevitably worn or submerged.
Sand alone may not ensure the persistence of these “directional” islands, so the self-assembly laboratory hopes to use classic patterns of landscape engineering (such as mangroves that anchor the ecosystem) to incorporate vegetation into future work. In the MIT Industrial Liaison Program Research and Development Conference held on November 13th, he said: “In the underwater bladder, you can sow them to grow.”
Tibbits also discussed his collaboration on “4-D printing”, which is formed through multi-material 3-D printing, but is designed to change over time, regardless of whether this change is caused by mechanical stress. , Water absorption, exposure or some other activation mechanism. One way to create adaptable materials is to pair two materials that expand or contract at different rates. In cooperation with Stratasys and Autodesk, he designed a single strand of material, which was immediately folded into the letters M-IT after being immersed in water.
The self-assembly laboratory also collaborated with BMW to design a cluster of silicone cushions that are 3D printed in liquid and can be inflated unit by unit, thereby changing their overall shape, stiffness or mobility. This material may be the basis for comfortable seats that adapt to different passengers.
The self-assembly laboratory is collaborating with the Supply Department, Hills Inc., the University of Maine, and Iowa State University on active textile research. So far, the team has produced sweater yarn that can be heated to fit the body shape of the individual wearer. Its long-term goal is to produce textiles that adapt to climate change. This work is partly funded by American Advanced Functional Fabrics, and part of the research is managed through the Materials Research Laboratory.
The self-assembly laboratory has also developed a new method that can 3D print liquid metal into powder to form fully formed parts that can be taken out of the powder. The parts are made of materials that can be remelted to form new parts.
The self-assembly laboratory used carbon-based materials in an Airbus project and developed thin blades that can fold and curl on their own to control the airflow to the engine. “Programmable” carbon work is carried out at the Bit and Atomic Centers of Carbitex LLC, Autodesk and MIT.
For the Biesse and Wood-Skin chair project, the self-assembly laboratory designed a small table that combines 3D printed wood fiber panels and prestressed textiles. The table can be transported flat and can be divided into several different arrangements due to the flexibility of textiles.
For example, by 3D printing harder materials onto a flat grid in a circular pattern on a circular grid, researchers have shown that cutting a circle from a flat surface will make it into a hyperbolic parabolic shape. Researchers include Erik Demaine, professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Christophe Guberan, a guest product designer from Switzerland; and David Costanza MA ’13, SM ’15.
Tibbits and Steelcase have developed a process of 3D printing plastic into liquid furniture parts, called fast liquid printing. This process prints in a gel bath to provide support for the printed parts and minimize the effects of gravity. Using this printing technology, they can print parts from centimeters to meters in a range of high-quality industrial materials (such as silicone rubber, polyurethane, and acrylic) within minutes to hours.
The common theme of all these different projects is Tibbits’ belief that the future of industrial production lies in harnessing the transformative power of intelligent programmable materials. Tibits said: “We want to think about what will happen next and see if we can really do this.”
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