3D printed wood composites lead way to programmable wood bending at MIT
April 23, 2019 | 10:11 am CDT
MIT's Self Assembly Lab has been developing new approaches to furniture manufacturing using new forms of high speed 3D printing, working with Steelcase and other partners. The Self-Assembly Lab is located in MIT's International Design Center, a cross-disciplinary design research center. 
 
Another recent project in this area involves a new approach to wood bending, this one in conjunction with Autodesk. Traditional wood-bending techniques require complex steaming equipment, labor-intensive forming processes, and a high degree of expertise. In addition, the natural pattern of wood grain and its physical properties make it difficult to curve into complex shapes.
 
Researchers at the Boston-based lab say novel printing and composite material technologies can now overcome prior limitations of wood forming. In this video, ground wood is fed into an augur and extruder to make a fiber composite filament. This can then be printed, yielding flat sheets of custom printed wood composite can be designed to self-transform in controlled and unique ways. While the lab has used water as a medium for activation, it imagines that it will be able to create wooden composites that radically adapt to extreme environmental conditions.
 
The development effort was conducted by the Self-Assembly Lab, MIT, Christophe Guberan, Erik Demaine and Autodesk Inc. The project team incuded  Skylar Tibbits, Christophe Guberan, Athina Papadopoulou, Carrie McKnelly, Chris Martin, Filipe Campos, Hannarae Annie Nam, and was done in collaboration with the Institute for Computational Design, University of Stuttgart. 
 

 

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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.