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MIT to Use Silkworms and a Robotic Arm to Print a Pavilion

Here's a bit of 3D printing news that's even weirder than the cobwebby house whose construction gleaned inspiration from human bone formation. The geniuses over at MIT have (a) hooked up magnets to silkworms to see how they make their pupal casings, then (b) took that research and programmed a robotic arm to (c) create a 10-foot-high pavilion/human cocoon. Using said robotic appendage, MIT's Mediated Matter Group will print silk fibers adhered together with biodegradable glue, eventually forming CNSILK Pavilion, which, much like the bone-like house, will be made entirely out of printed material—no supports, stints, or connectors. The team is hoping to address some of the limitations of 3D printing, most precisely the issue that printers, for now, can only "produce homogeneous materials with the same properties throughout," as Dezeen notes. Silkworms, on the other hand, vary the pattern of the material they deposit, which makes its output tough on the outside and soft on the inside. Which means, worm fans, these brainiacs may soon figure out how to create man-made architecture that's even more customizable than structures built by, you know, things other than 3D printers. No word on where this pavilion will be, but the project description says it will be ready "for an event in spring of 2013."

· Robot silkworms to print architectural structure [Dezeen]
· World's First Printed House May Look Like a Giant Fossil [Curbed National]
· MIT Media Lab [Official Site]