Nature is the ultimate designer; what else can we imagine could design something that is self-replicating, converts the energy of the sun to food, creates oxygen, and can last for hundreds of years? From the incredible ability of the gecko to climb vertical surfaces to the self-cleaning capabilities of the water lily, people have been amazed and inspired by the ingenuity with which nature creates solutions to problems that no amount of artificial engineering ability seems to master.
In fact, the relationship between technology and nature is often seen as one of struggle in a win/lose competition. Small concessions are made to ‘greening’ technology, such as the provision of recycled filament for 3D printers, but looking at the very way in which the world’s systems and creatures work holds clues as to how new technologies such as 3D printing can become even more fundamentally natural.
Recently, a close study of the way in which insect wings are generated has led to valuable insight for the reduction of costs in 3D printing. As part of continuing efforts to develop a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle, the Design and Prototyping Group of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the UK’s University of Sheffield undertook an effort to understand how they could reduce the use of support material when building up the layers for printing curved structures.