Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab researchers have created a three-dimensional (3D) printed dome using 6,500 live silkworms in a hybrid fabrication method called CNSilk.
Led by professor Neri Oxman, the project began as an experiment to test whether silkworm spinning patterns could be controlled by altering their environment. Upon discovering that the patterns could be controlled, Oxman developed a computer-aided design (CAD) program to control output. The team then built an aluminum scaffold, across which a computer numerical controlled robot wove silk starter threads to provide a framework. Thousands of silkworms then spun a dome over the frame, with Oxman manipulating material properties using the CAD program. The opacity of panels depended upon the density of the starter strings, and the integrity of the structure emerged from their orientation.
"The silkworm embodies everything an additive fabrication system currently lacks," Oxman says. "In more than one way, a silkworm is a sophisticated multi-material, multi-axis 3D printer."
Today, most 3D printers cannot print anything larger than a car's steering wheel, but the silkworms could create structures the size of a small house.
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This article is misleading. Silkworms were left on the initially spun dome. The CNSilk part is silly.
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