Working under the assumption that silkworms are nature’s original 3D printers, researchers at MIT Media Lab's Mediated Matter group have created a domed sculpture from silk fibres woven by a robotic arm — which was then completed by over 6,500 silkworms.
The finished project is called the Silk Pavilion, an effort to explore “the relationship between digital and biological fabrication in design.” The researchers hope to leverage their findings into designing 3D fabrication techniques that are more in line with organic, natural processes.
To create the dome, the researchers programmed a robotic arm to imitate the way silkworms move and deposit silk when building their cocoons. The bot then laid down one kilometre’s worth of silk fibre across flat polygonal metal frames to create 26 panels. These frames were then used to create the dome, which was suspended from the ceiling.
And then the fun began: Some 6,500 live silkworms were individually placed on the dome, where they deposited their silk and completed the structure.