Materials Ecology: Design at the intersection of technology and biology



A Case Study in Fiber-based Digital Fabrication. Neri Oxman

The Silk Pavilion explores the relationship between digital and biological fibre-based fabrication on an architectural scale.Its primary structure is comprised of 26 silk-threaded polygonal panels laid down by a CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machine. 
Inspired by the silkworm’s ability to generate a 3D°cocoon out of a single multi-property silk filament, the Pavilion’s overall geometry was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches, providing functional density gradients informed by environmental constraints such as light and heat. 
Overall density variation was informed by deploying the Bomby xmori silk worm as a biological multi-axis multi-material 3D printer in the creation of a secondary fibre structure. 
6500 silkworms were positioned on the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches to locally reinforce the CNC-deposited silk structure. 
The paper provides a review of basic research into the silkworm’s spinning behavior, material and structural characterisation, computational simulation and fabrication strategies devised for the full-scale construction of the Pavilion. 
Potential applications for large-scale fibre-based digital fabrication that involve biological fabrication conclude the paper.



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