3D Printing Is The Future Of Manufacturing And Neri Oxman Shows How Beautiful It Can Be

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Neri Oxman's piece Monocoque 2 uses a 3D printing technique that allows parts to be made from multiple materials in a single build.

To be on forefront of a cutting edge field like 3D printing, the skill set required is pretty stacked. You need to be a designer, engineer, researcher, innovator, and technologist. You should be a good public speaker to present new discoveries to others. And it doesn't hurt to be a professor at MIT.

Neri Oxman fits the bill, and her creations are demonstrating the powerful combination of 3D printing and new design algorithms inspired from nature.

Trained as an architect, Oxman is currently an assistant professor of media arts and science at the MIT Media lab. In 2009, she was named by Fast Company as one of the "100 Most Creative People" and made ICON's list of the top 20 most influential architects to shape the future. As director of the research group, Mediated Matter, she is exploring digital design and new fabrication technologies. Collaborating with materials science professor W. Craig Carter, they've developed algorithms that mimic patterns and processes in nature to create unique sculptures possible only through 3D printing. The produced works are quite amazing and are receiving international attention.

At this early stage in its development, 3D printing is being used mostly to generate replicas of natural and man-made structures. Just as a computer printer makes copies of 2D images, 3D printers have copied a variety of objects that we've profiled previously, such as robotschairsprostheticskidneys, and jaw bones, to mention a few. But Neri Oxman and her colleagues are discovering new design and engineering principles that will help to mature 3D printing into a technology capable of producing complex structures impossible by other manufacturing techniques.

Below is a gallery of Oxman's work over the last seven years.

Multiversites Creatives exhibit
Recently, Neri's work, sponsored by Objet, showed at the Centre Pompiduo in Paris as part of a Multiversites Creatives exhibit on 3D printing titled Imaginary Beings: Mythologies of the Not Yet. The pieces, Léviathan 1 and Kafka, are part of the torso series and Pneuma 1 is part of the pulmonary series and are pictured below.  Also, for a video (in French) from the exhibit showing more of Neri's pieces, click here.

Léviathan 1 (2012)

Kafka (2012)

Pneuma 1 (2012)

Making The Future
Earlier this year, Neri was asked to produce a piece to showcase the future of manufacturing for a Technology Review report.

Making The Future (2012)

You can watch this recent video produced by Objet in which Neri describes her approach to design:

Body Contoured Forms (Work in progress)
An ongoing study in the Oxman lab is exploring the design of skins and body armors based on human tissue. Speaking to PopSci, Oxman said, "Most patterns in nature—whether scales or spiderwebs—have some kind of logic that can be computationally modeled." Armour is bioinspired to protect by being designed specifically to a person's body. Carpal Skin is a prototype of a glove aimed at protecting against carpal tunnel syndrome.

Armour (2012)

Carpal Skin (2009-2010)

Completed Projects
Some of the following works are in the Museum of Science in Boston.

Beast (2008-2010)

Raycounting (2007-2010)

Fatemap (2008)

6D Phase Space (2008)

Cartesian Wax (2007)

Rapid Craft (2005-2006)

Exploration Into Porous Skin 1 (2005)

[Media: Foundation of Israeli CultureTracy Powell, YouTube]

[Sources: MIT, Neri OxmanPopSci, Technology Review]

David J. Hill

Managing Director, Digital Media at Singularity University
I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

Discussion — 7 Responses

  • Luterjufra June 4, 2012 on 7:47 am

    IT just work with plastic?… Does it work with wood or metal? JUst asking because i have a farm with some trees that takes 15 years to make profits… now im afraid that this thing could make me lose money… What do you guys think?

    • why06 Luterjufra June 4, 2012 on 8:18 am

      I highly doubt people will stop buy wood because of some plastic art.

      • Luterjufra why06 June 4, 2012 on 10:33 am

        even if people reduce the demand for wood… My father would still lose a lot of profit.. I hope not… but at the same time i would like to experience the singularity… OHH DEAR

  • David J. Hill June 4, 2012 on 8:40 am

    You can read about 3D printing using wood flour here:

    And we’ve covered 3D printing with stainless steel as well:

    I wrote an article a while ago on 3D printed chairs listing all the materials beyond plastic being used:

    “…3D printing with some common materials found in furniture and appliances, such as wood, ceramics, fabrics, stainless steel, and glass.”


  • kapcarl June 4, 2012 on 1:37 pm

    Great post David. If any of your readers are interested in more info about the Objet Connex500 multi-material 3D printer that Neri Oxman used to create the beautiful 3D printed pieces currently on exhibit at the Centre Pompidou, they can read more here: http://ow.ly/bm64Q

  • TysonQuick June 8, 2012 on 4:45 pm

    These are amazing. This is a great business idea as well: A 3D Printing Art Community that shares / modified CAD files. It’s an ever evolving art piece

  • inkinc June 21, 2012 on 12:07 pm

    i just cant believe this was all done by 3d printing. my friends who go to tech all complain about how hard cad is to use, but this is amazing. great job neri!

    tina is the author of this blog.