World’s First 3D Printed Photosynthetic Wearable

By on May 29th, 2015 in materials


Stratasys announced that its long-term collaborator, architect and designer Neri Oxman, has revealed the world’s first 3D printed photosynthetic wearable, “embedded with living matter.”

On the TED2015 stage in Vancouver, Oxman unveiled Mushtari, an artwork 3D printed by Stratasys, and the world’s first wearable combining multi-material additive manufacturing and synthetic biology. Ok, so, anyone could 3D print something to hold biomatter in it and wear it, so what’s the big deal?

During the TED talk, Oxman explains how Mushtari has been developed and designed to host living organisms and manipulate their function, saying, “This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganisms. Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari is designed to host synthetic microorganisms — a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria — that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun. Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before.”
Oxman’s team used Stratasys’ triple-jetting 3D printing to create a large fluid network within Mushtari that varied in transparency from opaque to clear. According to Oxman, “This enabled varying levels of transparency and translucency to be designed into surface areas where photosynthesis was desired. Channels and pockets were implemented to enhance the flow and functionality of the cells. Such mechanical and optical property gradation can only be achieved using multi-material 3D printing with high spatial resolution for manufacturing.”

A tailor-made a solution for this particular piece was made by Stratasys. According to Naomi Kaempfer, creative director for Art, Fashion and Design at Stratasys, “We have a fertile research collaboration with Professor Neri Oxman, one that has great reciprocal benefits as we push each other to the edges of expression and technological capability. 3D printing Mushtari is a wonderful example of how far this collaboration can bring us. The fluid channels in the wearable stretch to around 58 meters, with an inner channel diameter ranging from 1 mm to 2.5 cm, frequently turning sharply in new directions. Clearing the support material out from such a long, narrow and complex structure to create the hollow channels for living matter presented a significant challenge. Our R&D team went beyond the boundaries of our existing technology, formulating a dedicated, improved support structure to allow a smooth, effective process in support of Professor Oxman’s vision.”


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