Researchers at MIT plan to 3D print a pavilion by imitating the way a silkworm builds its cocoon.

The research team, headed by architect and Mediated Matter Groupfounder Neri Oxman, attached tiny magnets to the heads of silkworms to discover how they “print” their pupal casings around themselves.

“We’ve managed to motion-track the silkworm’s movement as it is building its cocoon,” said Oxman. “Our aim was to translate the motion-capture data into a 3D printer connected to a robotic arm in order to study the biological structure in larger scales.”

The pavilion is part of a research project to explore ways of overcoming the existing limitations of additive manufacturing at architectural scales and follows recent proposals for a house made of 3D printed concrete sections and a dwelling made of prefabricated plastic elements.

Top image: colour scanning electron microscope image of the exterior surface of a silk moth cocoon. Image by Dr. James C. Weaver, Wyss Institute, Harvard University

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