Using modeling software and multi-material 3D printing, industrial designer Nicole Hone created a series of 4D-printed futuristic aquatic plants, or Hydrophytes, that are as full of character as the natural organisms they mimic. In the film of the same name, the hydrophytes are activated by pneumatic inflation in water, and transform into dynamic organisms that you could swear were actually alive.
“I have always been fascinated with nature,” the designer tells Colossal. “It inspires my design ideas and aesthetic. For this project, I became particularly interested in botany and marine life. I was amazed by the way sea creatures and corals moved, and I wanted to reflect similar qualities in my designs.” While working on her Master of Design Innovation thesis at Victoria University of Wellington, Hone learned about plans to redesign the National Aquarium in New Zealand. She thought that it would be interesting to develop a “future-focused exhibition” with moving models as an interactive installation for visitors. She began making test prints and discovered that the models moved best in water, which eventually became the pieces used in Hydrophytes.
Hone explains that software was used to create the shape, surface texture, and internal structures for the Hydrophytes. One benefit of the 3D printing system is that there can be a varying degree of hardness for the parts, but the machine can still handle printing them as a seamless object. During printing the works are encased in a support material, which Hone has to then painstakingly remove (sometimes a 4-hour process) by soaking them in water and using a toothpick. After cleaning, air is passed through the CGOs (computer generated objects) and they are placed in the underwater environments.
“They can respond to external forces such as gravity, water ripples or currents, and interaction with people or other 3D prints in real life,” Hone said. “Their man-made composite materials behave uncannily similar to living organisms.”
She went onto explain that each Hydrophyte has a unique character that is defined by both their style of movement and appearance. The colored lights that illuminate the printed plants were chosen to “complement each personality and amplify the emotive qualities of the film,” and the functions of each plant were inspired by the effects of climate change on marine species. “As the 4D printing experiments developed from abstract shapes into more plant-like models, their appearance and movement helped me think of which function would best suit each character,” she added. It’s fascinating to see the intersection of art and technology produce such a unique collection of objects. To view more of what Hone has created with her research, visit her website. (via Designboom)