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  • 2020AdamBlaneyPhD

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Designing parametric matter: Exploring adaptive material scale self-assembly through tuneable environments

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Adam Blaney
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Publication date2/01/2020
Number of pages324
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

3D designs can be created using generative processes, which can be transformed and adapted almost infinitely if they remain within their digital design software. For example, it is easy to alter a 3D object's colour, size, transparency, topology and geometry by adjusting values associated with those attributes. Significantly, these design processes can be seen as morphogenetic, where form is grown out of bottom-up logic’s and processes. However, when the designs created using these processes are fabricated using traditional manufacturing processes and materials they lose all of these abilities. For example, even the basic ability to change a shapes' size or colour is lost. This is partly because the relationships that govern the changes of a digital design are no longer present once fabricated. The motivating aim is: how can structures be grown and adapted throughout the fabrication processes using programmable self-assembly?

In comparison the highly desirable attribute of physical adaptation and change is universally present within animals and biological processes. Various biological organisms and their systems (muscular or skeletal) can continually adapt to the world around them to meet changing demands across different ranges of time and to varying degrees. For example, a cuttlefish changes its skin colour and texture almost immediately to hide from predators. Muscles grow in response to exercise, and over longer time periods bones remodel and heal when broken, meaning biological structures can adapt to become more efficient at meeting regularly imposed demands. Emerging research is rethinking how digital designs are fabricated and the materials they are made from, leading to physically responsive and reconfigurable structures.

This research establishes an interdisciplinary and novel methodology for building towards an adaptive design and fabrication system when utilising material scale computation process (e.g. self-assembly) within the fabrication process, which are guided by stimuli. In this context, adaption is the ability of a physical design (shape, pattern) to change its local material and or global properties, such as: shape, composition, texture and volume. Any changes to these properties are not predefined or constrained to set limits when subjected to environmental stimulus, (temperature, pH, magnetism, electrical current). Here, the stimulus is the fabrication mechanisms, which are governed and monitored by digital design tools. In doing so digital design tools will guide processes of material scale self-assembly and the resultant physical properties.
The fabrication system is created through multiple experiments based on various material processes and platforms, from paint and additives, to ink diffusion and the mineral accretion process. A research through design methodology is used to develop the experiments, although the experiments by nature are explorative and incremental. Collectively they are a mixture of analogue and digital explorations, which establish principles and a method of how to grow physical designs, which can adapt based on digital augmentations by guiding material scale self-assembly.

The results demonstrate that it is possible to grow physical 2D and 3D designs (shapes and patterns) that could have their properties tuned and adapted by creating tuneable environments to guide the mineral accretion process. Meaning, the desirable and dynamic traits of digital computational designs can be leveraged and extended the as they are made physical. Tuneable environments are developed and defined thought the series experiments within this thesis.
Tuneable environments are not restricted to the mineral accretion process, as it is demonstrated how they can manipulate ink cloud patterns (liquid diffusion), which are less constrained in comparison to the mineral accretion process. This is possible due to the use of support mediums that dissipate energy and also contrast materially (they do not diffuse). Combining contrasting conditions (support mediums, resultant material effects) with the idea of tuneable environments reveals how: 1) material growth and properties can be monitored and 2) the possibilities of growing 3D designs using material scale self-assembly, which is not confined to a scaffold framework.

The results and methodology highlight how tuneable environments can be applied to advance other areas of emerging research, such as altering environmental conditions during methods of additive manufacturing, such as, suspended deposition, rapid liquid printing, computed axial lithography or even some strategies of bioprinting. During the process, deposited materials and global properties could adapt because of changing conditions. Going further and combining it with the idea of contrasting mediums, this could lead to new types 3D holographic displays, which are grown and not restricted to scaffold frameworks. The results also point towards a potential future where buildings and infrastructure are part of a material ecosystem, which can share resources to meet fluctuating demands, such as, solar shading, traffic congestion, live loading.