|Second Skin

4.031 Design Studio: Objects & Interaction / fall 2016

This assignment focuses on the theme of 3D-printed textiles and how the technology can be translated into communicative wearables.

| Part 1: Textile Base Unit

I was inspired by organic structures, specifically cell bodies. One of my goals was to take advantage of 3D-printing's ability to produce organic shapes and to contrast its organic qualities with a concept (textiles) that is usually geometric and repetitive by nature. I also wanted to make sure my textile had a lot of movement and was especially drawn towards hinge mechanisms that allow for folding movements.

|| Mechanical Testing

I modeled and printed several prototypes of the small hinge mechanism I wanted to use for my textile. The hinge was made to be as small as possible given the minimum tolerances and clearances of the Form 2 3D printer. Below in chronological order from left to right are the prototypes of the base units using the various hinge models. The first models broke, but the last one was very sturdy and functional.

|| Hinge Model

I was confident with the final hinge design, which was only 4mm tall and 5mm wide and allowed for well over 180 degrees of rotation between the connected units.

| Part 2: Textile Swatch

|| Swatch Pattern Generation

The next step was to create a swatch using the hinge design and the cell bodies concept. I used Rhino 3D and Grasshopper to generate an adjusted voronoi pattern as an outline for my design. This involved creating an algorithm that would allow for customized variations of boundary sizes, number of points, radii, and gap distances. I also included an "attractor point" in the pattern such that the hole size inside each cell body would decrease or increase as in gets closer or farther away from the attractor point. Below is the final pattern that I generated for my printed swatch, which is 100mm x 100mm and includes 25 different cells.

|| Manual Finishing Touches

I transferred the generated pattern to SolidWorks in order to extrude and fillet the design. Some of the bodies could not fillet properly, which required manual fixes in which I re-created the outlines by hand. I then created guidelines for where the hinges go and manually inserted hinges in the appropriate locations. Overall, this was a time-consuming but necessary process. The thickeness of the cells was 5mm.

|| Product

The total printing time was three hours, but it was worth the wait - the print was a success! After clipping of the supports, the swatch could move fluidly and had a very satisfactory field to it. For future improvements, I would try to minimize the thicknesses of the cell bodies and identify ways to reduce manual processes.

| Part 3: Wearable

|| Concept Development

I wanted to continue the original inspiration for my 3D-printed textile and further research cell bodies. I was particularly interested in how the shape and structure of the cells enhanced their various functions. For example, blood cells are small and round in order to easily flow through our bodies, plant cells are directionally structured in order to provide support, and muscle cells are striated and overlapping in order for muscles to easily flex and contract. My goal was to apply this concept to a 3D-printed wearable, in which different cell shapes would be located on different regions depending on how I wanted the wearable to conform to the body.

I also studied variations in the cells' internal features and how this could affect the purpose or message of the cells. This helped me determine what would be most appropriate for the cells that would make up the final wearable.

|| Prototyping

First, I did some early experimentation with paper prototypes in order to get a sense of how the textile would interact with the body. Some key learnings involved sizes the cells and various shapes of the wearable.

I decided on a wearable that would cover the shoulder because it would be an appropriate size for the scope of this project and this region of the body would have plenty of movement to experiment with. The wearable would be worn around the neck like a necklace but then drape across the left shoulder. My initial prototypes consisted of mapping 2D cell networks through Rhino 3D and Grasshopper and laser cutting the geometries onto scrap fabric. The prototype designs are shown below.

The process involved manually manipulating dot locations within the voronoi algorithm. I mapped out my shoulder dimensions onto a 2D plane as a guide. The final design mostly utilized the properties of cell size and directionality in order to achieve the intended performance of the wearable. For example, I used small cells in regions of high movement such as the shoulder joint area and long directional cells for the outermost region where the textile flows off the shoulder. My intention was to have the wearable conform to the wearer's skin until it reached the outside of the shoulder, where it drapes and folds almost like fabric.

|| Product

After determining the 2D design, I followed the same process for the textile swatch of extruding it to 3D and manually inserting the hinges, except now I had to divide the wearable into six sections for printing due to size limitation of the 3D printers. I inserted hinge elements with holes between the sections so I could connect the sections with thread.

Pictures to be added soon!

|| Featured in Formlabs Blog