3D printing has allowed for artists to take massive inspiration from nature. Designer Nicole Hone has now used the technology to create an immersive experience using aquatic plants.
The artist states: “I have always been fascinated with nature; it inspires my design ideas and aesthetic. For this project, I became particularly interested in botany and marine life. I was amazed by the way sea creatures and corals moved and wanted to reflect similar qualities in my designs. During the early stages of test prints, I found that the materials performed smoother and more organically in water as fragile parts were supported better. At the beginning of my master’s project, I also discovered that there were plans to redesign the National Aquarium of New Zealand. I thought – wouldn’t it be really cool to have a future-focussed exhibition with moving models that visitors could interact with? This idea, combined with my personal interests and discoveries from the testing phase lead to the concept of futuristic aquatic plants – Hydrophytes.”
The hydrophytes provide an in-depth underwater experience and prove how diverse 4D printing can really be.
3D Printing Hydrophytes
The plants can serve various functions depending on how the creators program them. For example, one of Hone’s Hydrophytes is the “Nomadic Cleaner”, which can clean pests off of corals. Then there’s the Imp Root, which hunts invasive species. This all comes down to their internal structure.
Hone developed the sculptures using CAD, and then she printed them at Victoria University of Wellington. Different software programs allowed her to 3D model the shape, surface texture and internal structures of each sculpture. These then became a single object using a variety of UV light-sensitive materials on a multi-material 3D printer. The light-sensitive polymer print process is only the beginning however.
The designers then removed the jelly-like support material that encases the sculptures by soaking it in water. They followed this up by cleaning it out with a toothpick which can take multiple hours to complete. The internal tubes inside these artworks are intricate and require their own form of promising. Designers flush then out using water and animate them with the use of pneumatic air jets and LED lights. As a result, it produces an immersive experience for the viewer, looking at seemingly organically moving lifeforms. The biomimicry of the 4D plants can fully simulate real functions found in nature.
Featured image courtesy of Nicole Hone.