News . 3D Printing

17 May 2018

By Bryan Bullock, Director, Rapid 3D

I’ve been in engineering in some shape or form for 25 years now and have always enjoyed solving engineering problems. I love collecting all the relevant data, visiting the site if possible and studying and operating machines and processes for hours. Spending hours thinking about all the possible solutions using all the “tools” in my toolbox gathered over all these years.

On Thursday May 10, my mind was blown and I realized my toolbox is so much bigger and is in fact all around me! I attended a one day course/workshop in Biomimicry presented by Claire Janisch, founder of Biomimicry SA, and hosted by us as our RAPID 3D office in Johannesburg.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the course, but thought it would be a nice add on to the Design for Additive Manufacturing course that I present, along with the topology optimization section. Claire has sent me away wanting change my entire approach to design and problem solving!

As engineers we are not always known for our adventurous side, rather turning to the “tried and tested” solutions. However, what is more “tried and tested” than millions of years of evolution?

Another fascinating aspect to Biomimicry is that it applies to various business areas, from mechanical engineering to medicine…and everything in between. For example, vast amounts of energy are consumed maintaining a comfortable temperature in buildings, yet an anthill in Africa can maintain its constant temperature within 1°C throughout the year. This is just one of hundreds of examples that Claire mentioned in just a single session!

Additive Manufacture and Design for Additive Manufacturing, combined with Biomimicry, can have a vast impact on the way we look at design challenges. For instance, take a robot gripper that is grown in one piece out of the same material, but requires various mechanical properties throughout the part, ranging from a rigid mounting point to flexible arms and finally a soft touch surface so as not to damage the component being handled. Well, Nature has already done similar things with one material using various structural designs!

In summary, every person who attended the biomimicry course, from doctors to engineers and industrial designers, all left with new ideas and enthusiasm. This was a one-day workshop, can you imagine what future engineers, architects, doctors, scientists, businessman could achieve if they were exposed to this as children? Their entire way of thinking would be influenced by the most successful designs from Nature!


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