Nature, the brilliant architect, creates surfaces and materials through unique growth processes, whether it is our skin, bird feathers, or tree barks. These are usually basic modules repeated through an underlying geometry, resulting in new structural qualities and functions.
One of the things I find quite intriguing about 3D printing is the possibilities to print new materials that we can then create with. I have seen pictures of 3D printed textile-like materials which I could not find much info on how they were modeled, so I decided to explore some designs here.
With the help of 3d modeling software, in this case Sketchup, we can create models using generative processes like nature does. Although each module is printed with rigid or semi-rigid materials, the new structure takes on the quality of flexible materials such as woven textiles.
Step 1: Design Basics
There are countless geometries that would work. In this instructable the underlying geometry comes from a simple and elegant chain armor structure 4-in-1.
The most basic element, a loop, is repeated so that when a surface is created, each loop is connected to 4 other loops, except for the ones on the edges/ends of the surface.
Since the model is made for 3D printing process, there are unique rules that apply. Really important keys that make the design/ modeling challenging and rewarding-
1. Every loop component needs a minimum thickness to make sure it is strong enough when printed with our choice of materials. I am using 2mm minimum here based on my research, but the model can be scaled according to needs.
2. Although the finished ‘textile’ is a connected flexible web of modules, no module should stick to another in the printing process, which means all points on the surface of one module should have a minimum of 1mm space from that of another!
One little loop and one basic geometry offers infinite creative possibilities. In the next 2 steps we will look at 2 models:
• A variation on the shape of the basic loop module to create heart themed patterns
• A change on the basic module from one loop to two loops, with added embellishments to create dimensional patterns
The animated gifs are created from screen captures of Sketchyphysics simulations. Sketchyphysics is a great plugin (thank you Chris Phillips!!!) which simulates real world gravity, collisions and interactions of physical objects.