Stratasys & Neri Oxman Add to Wearable Wanderers Collection with Mushtari
Stratasys has been collaborating with architect and designer Neri Oxman on the development of a wearable art series project called Wanderers: An Astrobiological Exploration. It is part of ‘The Sixth Element’ design collection curated by Stratasys for EuroMold 2014, and is cited as a speculation about interplanetary space travel. The series is already comprised of four pieces that have been constructed to contain and generate “life-sustaining elements”, and now includes Mushtari, a 3D printed photosynthetic wearable embedded with living matter. Members of the Mediated Matter research group, the Laboratory of Prof. Pamela Silver at Harvard Medical School, and Deskriptiv (Christopher Bader & Dominik Kolb) were also involved in the collection’s conceptualisation. Oxman unveiled the 3D printed photosynthetic wearable on the TED2015 stage in Vancouver.
Mushtari means “huge” or “giant” in Arabic, and is meant to invoke elements pertaining to the planet Jupiter. It was originally designed as a single strand filled with living matter, and has evolved into an organ system for consuming and digesting biomass, absorbing nutrients and expelling waste. The translucent tract was designed to support the flow of cyanobacteria engineered to convert sunlight into sucrose.
Indeed, this product is unprecedented as it plays host to living organisms, and is able to manipulate their function. Onstage, Oxman elucidated: “This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganism.” Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari is designed to host synthetic microorganisms – a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria – that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun. Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before.”
Oxman’s team, which included her researcher, Will Patrick, used Stratasys’ own triple-jetting 3D printing technology to create a large fluid network within Mushtari whose transparency varies by degrees of opacity and clarity. As Oxman explained, the triple-jetting 3D printing tech is what enables the “varying levels of transparency and translucency to be designed into surface areas where photosynthesis was desired. Channels and pockets were implemented to enhance the flow and functionality of the cells – such mechanical and optical property gradation can only be achieved using multi-material 3D printing with high spatial resolution for manufacturing.”
Naomi Kaempfer, Creative Director Art Fashion Design at Stratasys has commented: “We have a fertile research collaboration with Professor Neri Oxman, one that has great reciprocal benefits as we push each other to the edges of expression and technological capability. 3D printing Mushtari is a wonderful example of how far this collaboration can bring us. The fluid channels in the wearable stretch to around 58 meters, with an inner channel diameter ranging from 1 mm to 2.5 cm, frequently turning sharply in new directions. Clearing the support material out from such a long, narrow and complex structure to create the hollow channels for living matter presented a significant challenge. Our R&D team went beyond the boundaries of our existing technology, formulating a dedicated improved support structure to allow a smooth, effective process in support of Professor Oxman’s vision.”
Oxman concluded her speech by saying: “In the end, it is clear that the incorporation of synthetic biology in 3D printed products for wearable microbiomes will enable the transition from designs that are inspired by Nature, to designs made with and by Nature, to, possibly designing Nature herself”.