3D printing will help build unimaginable shapes

Architect Michael Hansmeyer begins his Ted Talk by asking the audience the following:

What kind of forms could we design if we didn’t work with references any more, if we have no bias, if we have no preconceptions. What kind of forms could we design if we could free ourselves from our experience, if we could free ourselves from our education? What would these unseen forms look like? How could we go about creating something that is completely new?

Michael has found an interesting, yet simple way to create objects that we have never seen before. Inspired by cell division in nature, he’s written an algorithm that designs incredible forms with millions of facets, that no one could conceivably design from hand without the help of computation. I won’t give away the whole thing, except to tell you that it begins by simply the folding of a piece of paper.

But what interests me is not just that he’s come up with algorithms to create three dimensional objects–many people have been doing this for years (although Michael’s are quite extraordinary)–but that he’s seeing 3D printing as a way to eventually realize these shapes in their physical form. And from this, useful and beautiful and mind-blowing things like functional architectural columns could be the end result. Right now, due to the size of the columns, he’s painstakingly using a laser cutter rather than a 3D printer to build the physical column, but at the rate 3D printing is moving it will not be long at all before someone steps up and makes a 3D print of one.

I guarantee that spending the 11 minutes on this video will be time well spent.