Thursday, 11 September 2014

From Fungus buildings to Algorithmic chair all through to Germ-fighting iPhone cases, Software giant Autodesk-Maya,
and others are ushering in a revolution in materials
science you may not even see coming.
“Swapping new materials for old ones is interesting,
but there are so many new designs to explore when
you design by computer or biology,” says Brooklyn
architect David Benjamin, whose firm, The Living,
designed a gravity-defying 41-foot tower called Hy-Fi. Benjamin wanted to prove he could build a
massive, recyclable structure with zero waste and
almost no energy. The material: bricks made of
mycelium, a rootlike component of mushrooms,
fused with chopped corn stalks in a process
developed by Ecovative, a startup in Green Island,
N.Y. that makes eco-packaging and furniture.The
bricks could theoretically be made anywhere and at
scale for as little as 20 cents. The tower was lit from
above using a new specular film from 3M
MMM +0.12% that’s more reflective than any glass
mirror. Hy-Fi stood outside MoMA PS1 in Queens,
N.Y. this summer. Much of it is now composting.
Benjamin’s firm was acquired recently by Autodesk.

The evolving chair project

Architect David Benjamin started with a simple
solid chair model, then applied some design
software to take out some weight giving it a reduced weight meshing and
then had the computer figure out on its own, via
thousands of simulations, what the optimal design
should be for maximum weight and minimum
What emerged was a stronger seat that weighs a
mere 6.4 pounds, 70% lighter than the solid chair. It
was produced in one shot out of a 3-D printer.
Algorithm-generated design software, which
Autodesk plans to release next year, is starting to
produce inhumanly complex and beautiful concepts
for lightweight airplanes and bicycles and more
efficient heat exchangers. Benjamin is starting to
combine this technique with multimaterial 3-D
printers to produce parts that are malleable in some
places and rigid in others, allowing him to embed
latches, hinges and joints right into the part without
the need for extra hardware or fasteners. One could
also combine metals with plastic in one printing
run. “Why should I-beams be made of steel?” asks
Benjamin. “What if we could take one and curve it
into the shape we want?”
The Lightning superbike project

Autodesk is partnering with Lightning Motorcycle to
see how advanced 3-D printing could improve the
performance of its superfast electric bikes. At its
Pier 9 workshop space in San Francisco, Autodesk
engineers built a swingarm something similar to the spider boris of a car, which attaches the
rear wheel to the frame, by combining traditional
manufacturing methods and 3-D printing.
Lightning’s original swingarm was a heavy chunk
of milled aluminum pipe. Oregon State undergrad
Nathan Fuller, who recently completed a summer
internship at Autodesk, started with a printed
plastic prototype that was too weak on its own, so
he laid carbon fiber over the surface. But the plastic
doesn’t bond well with other materials, so he came
up with the idea of printing microtextures onto the
surface of the plastic that allow the sealant to lock
the plastic and carbon fiber together. The finished
prototype affixed aluminum only at the ends, while
the rest is 3-D-printed plastic, saving weight and
material wastage. The next step is to ask an
algorithm to come up with a better design, as with
the chair on the previous page. A computer mockup
shows a swingarm that looks more like bone
structure. “Just like your bones will adapt to loads
they’re exposed to over time,” says Autodesk’s
technology futurist, Jordan Brandt, “that’s what will
happen with this.”

Sharklet Smartphone Case

The texture of sharkskin has evolved over millions
of years to keep barnacles and algae from forming
on the slow-moving beasts. The same principle
works for repelling bacteria, too, because germs
that can’t take hold will die. Sharklet Technologies,
in Aurora, Colo., has used this idea to develop a
new plastic “metamaterial,” a fancy name for a
substance that’s transformed to exhibit properties it
never had before. The process involves etching
grooves as narrow as one-tenth of a human hair into
almost any plastic, such as polycarbonate, silicone
or polyurethane. The angles of the ridges can be
adjusted to repel various substances such as mucus,
blood or bacteria without resorting to harsh
chemicals. Hospitals would be interested: Infections
cost the U.S. health care system close to $10 billion
a year. The seven-year-old firm has raised $10
million in venture capital and grants. Devicemaker
Cook Medical is testing Sharklet’s plastic as a
surface for urinary catheters. It’s going to take a
few years of clinical trials before it shows up in
humans. But this holiday season you can cut germs
by up to 90% with Sharklet’s iPhone it up and read more.

posted by:@djshyluckjimmy

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