3D Printing Moves Into the Fourth Dimension

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While most of us are grappling with the idea of 3D printing, Skylar Tibbits – computational architect and lecturer at MIT – is spearheading projects towards a fourth dimension. Transformation, Tibbit claims, is an uncharted capability that enables objects – straight off the printing bed – to assemble themselves, changing from one form to another. “Think: robots with no wires or motors.” Tibbits exhibits how a single strand – embedded with predetermined properties – can fold from a line to a three dimensional structure. “I invite you to join us in reinventing how things come together.”

Fluid Crystallization / Skylar Tibbits + Arthur Olson

Courtesy of The Self-Assembly Lab, MIT

From the architect. MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab has exhibited the Fluid Crystallization project as part of the 2013 Architectural League Prize Exhibition at the Parson’s Gallery in . The Fluid Crystallization installation – a collaboration between MIT Self-Assembly Lab director Skylar Tibbits and  director Arthur Olsoninvestigates hierarchical and non-deterministic self-assembly with large numbers of parts in a fluid medium. 

When Buildings Build Themselves

In the second part of our popular series “How 3D Printing Will Change Our World,” we took a look at the work of Neri Oxman, an MIT professor 3D Printing fantastic, nature-inspired designs that actually respond to their environment.

But an MIT colleague and fellow architect, Skylar Tibbits, and his partner Arthur Olson of the Scripps Research Institute, are taking Oxman’s thesis one step further. Similarly inspired by natural properties that allow for interaction with the environment, these two are trying to figure out: ”Could buildings one day build themselves?”

The two recently exhibited the Autodesk-sponsored BioMolecular Self-Assembly at TED Global 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The project? Take the basic ingredients for molecular assembly,  put them in individual flasks, and shake well. The result? The independent parts actually find each other and self-assemble various structures themselves.

It looks pretty small-scale right now, but Olson and Tibbits have already applied self-assembly technologies for larger installations – which means that buildings might not be so far off…

Find out how this technology could create buildings, and check out more photos/video, after the break… 

The Self-Assembly Line / Skylar Tibbits

Courtesy of Skylar Tibbits and

Together, Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson presented a large-scale installation at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA entitled The Self-Assembly Line – a large-scale version of a self-assembly virus module, demonstrated as an interactive and performative structure. A discrete set of modules are activated by stochastic rotation from a larger container/structure that forces the interaction between units. The unit geometry and attraction mechanisms (magnetics) ensure the units will come into contact with one another and auto-align into locally-correct configurations. Overtime, as more units come into contact, break away, and reconnect, larger, furniture scale elements emerge. Given different sets of unit geometries and attraction polarities various structures could be achieved. By changing the external conditions, the geometry of the unit, the attraction of the units and the number of units supplied, the desired global configuration can be programmed. Continue reading for more.

FAST Light at MIT

Courtesy of Skylar Tibbits

The FAST Light festival of art, science and technology celebrates MIT’s culture of creativity and invention. Beginning in February installations, pavilions and artwork have transformed the campus continuing thru May.  Installations demonstrate how the tools of ‘technology, invention and fantasy can transform the physical environment in thought-provoking, breathtaking ways.’

VoltaDom, by Skylar Tibit is currently on view as part of more than 20 installations created by MIT faculty and students. Tibit shared with us a video and photographs of the installation.  A complete list of installations and events can be found on the official site for FAST Light.