Whether it’s superstrings in physics or the first violin in a symphony orchestra, strings run the universe. Invisible strings control everything from creepy marionettes to the direction of the global economy. Without them, we would lack conduits for mechanical forces and fodder for cheesy metaphors.
Strings. They form the fabric of human society and the clothing we all hope you’re wearing right now.
When it comes to engineering, how can strings help? There are plenty of cable-driven and articulated designs where automated string installation would greatly speed up the build. Conductive, shrinking, and optical fibers add functions desktop 3D printers are not yet able to provide. These are the reasons we have been working on methods to insert strings and fibers into 3D printed and laser cut parts.
(a) Fold-flat bike helmet assembly https://youtu.be/DVzoognroCY?t=28s
(b) eNable prosthetic hand assembly https://youtu.be/5HVwC3RnWXk?t=46m22s
(c) Articulated dragon model assembly https://youtu.be/pEerHkxMN2w?t=9m22s
How about some ideas from nature? Tendons come to mind, but here is something weirder: the mysterious extinct animal Dinomischus of the Burgess Shale used strings at its core. Were they muscle fibers? Intriguing but unlikely, say paleontologists. Was their only function to keep the stomach in place, just like bungees keep a zorber centered? And how did they grow? Who knows for sure. Only three Dinomischus fossils have been found.
The strings or “suspensory fibers” are labeled “Sus. Fb.” in this image from
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