Update: A blistering summer

Jeremy at FirstBuild pulled a couple of vacuum molds for the light diffuser on the Trilife cellular computing project. Here’s a video showing a softened thick PETG sheet forming over the triangular mold:

Next you let it cool, then you tap it to knock it off, and then pull the mold down as in this video:

Because the minimum sheet size is 2×2 feet, there’s a lot of extra material to chop off, and it is 1/16″ thick. Imagine opening one of the worst blister-packs ever, except that instead of the USB stick you just bought, the prize is the blister itself. We used shears for the first one, and plan on a hot wire or laser cutter for more automation later. It will also get some paint or some sandblasting to diffuse the light.

Pop up 3D structures printed on stretched fabric


Amy discovered some good settings for getting 3D printed materials to stick to spandex. We can print flat, thin structures and have them control how the fabric bends and folds. We can also use the fabric’s tension to warp them into 3D shapes. This concept has a lot in common with our microscale pop-up structures. But why would you want to do this?

  • Since 3D printing time scales with volume, it can be much faster to produce a pop-up structure from a thin sheet than to 3D print it directly.
  • Integrating hard and soft materials is going to be key to making soft robots that contain electronic and mechanical structures, at least in the near future. For instance, even though robots are getting tentacles for arms, their brains are still made from brittle silicon-based computer chips.
  • Fabrics have diverse properties: they’re flexible and can contain fiber optics, conductive wires, tubes for fluids and gases, stretchy threads, shape memory wires…the list goes well beyond what we can get from 3D printed materials these days. Let’s combine these materials with the fast customization of 3D printing!
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