Posted: October 29th, 2013 | Author: aaron | Filed under: 3dprinting, art, exhibition | No Comments »
Three of Nervous System’s Hyphae lamps are currently on display at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in an exhibition called Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital. The show opened on October 16th and continues until July 6th, 2014. The three one-of-a-kind lamps were “grown” specifically for this exhibition and range in size from 18x18x28 cm to 24x24x34 cm. You can read more about our Hyphae Lamps here. Our Cell Cycle design app is also on display in an interactive section of the exhibition.
Out of Hand is the first major museum exhibition to explore the impact of various digital fabrication technologies on human creativity. The exhibition underscores the phenomenon of artists using new technologies to manifest previously intangible digital designs. At the same time, the exhibition illuminates some of the ways digital fabrication is fundamentally altering both the process and the perception of artistic creation. The complexity of many of the pieces on display and the curatorial emphasis on fabrication push questions of manufacture and material to the forefront without offering much commentary on issues of aesthetics, meaning or history.
I found that the show’s focus on final objects and their manufacture had the effect of obscuring the time-consuming, demanding, and original digital design work that went into the pieces on display. Little attention is given to how artists use programming or digital modeling, which may inadvertently lend weight to the common misconception that now, in the age of digital design, computers are doing all the hard work for us.
The Museum of Arts and Design seems well-suited to a show that is primarily focused on manufacture. I found Out of Hand to be well-curated, featuring a broad range of pieces and artists without losing focus. I think many of the pieces included in the show are challenging, evocative, and beautiful. This exhibition makes it clear that the technology used to manufacture an object necessarily guides design choices, even in the world of seemingly endless possibilities ushered in by ubiquitous 3D printing. If the medium is the message, then the message of Out of Hand is clear: humanity is transitioning from a purely physical existence to something between physical and digital that offers us new, exciting, and sometimes unsettling options for how we do everything, including how we create art.
Posted: October 8th, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: 3dprinting, jewelry | Tags: brass | 2 Comments »
We recently prototyped some of our most popular 3d-printed jewelry designs in gold-plated brass. These are produced in the same way as our sterling silver designs. First, they are 3d-printed in wax at a high resolution. Then, they are cast in brass using the lost wax method. Finally, they are polished and plated with 22kt gold. We are not sure if we are going to add this material to our collection. But, the limited stock we have available is currently for sale in the Nervous System Etsy Shop. You can see the pieces we have available below.
Posted: October 4th, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: 3dprinting, jewelry | No Comments »
Organic branching forms emerge from the top of this intricate sterling silver ring. The complex structure recalls the forms of stony corals and dendritic crystals. Each ring is 3d-printed in wax, cast in precious metal, and then polished to a mirror finish.
This is the first piece in our Laplacian collection. Laplacian growth is a term that describes structures which expand at a rate proportional to the gradient of a laplacian field. This type of growth is seen in a myriad of natural systems, including crystal formation, stony coral growth, and the formation of lightning.
The ring is available in US ring sizes 5,6,7, and 8 in sterling silver for $300 and brass for $210. We currently have a silver size 7 in stock and the rest are made to order. The ring is in our shop here.
The growth process is a numerical model of 3D isotropic dendritic solidification, you can see a video of our system below.
Posted: September 30th, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: design, jewelry, nature, simulation, software | 1 Comment »
Folium is a generative jewelry series inspired by the algorithmic structures of plants and algae. Each Folium design is one of a kind, a specimen of a new hypothetical plant species. Free from the constraints of biology and physics, a Folium can exhibit forms and patterns impossible in nature.
Our first generation of Folium pieces is now available for purchase here:
Folium Pendants in stainless steel
Folium Pendants in 24kt gold plated stainless steel
Folium Earrings in stainless steel
This video documents our Folium growth process. (video not showing up? you can watch it here)
Learning from nature
One of our primary interests at Nervous System, is the systematic exploration of how pattern and form emerge in nature. We’re not interested in merely mimicking nature, instead we try to learn from it, co-opting its strategies of growth. The resulting mathematical models define broader principles that describe the dynamics of many systems.
similar patterns are exhibited by street grids (London), leaf veins, cracking patterns, and river deltas (Lena Delta)
Through code and design, we explore the question of how patterns emerge in nature. How can we use these same rules of growth for design? Digital manufacturing frees us from the rigid uniformity of mass production and nature suggests a new approach to manufacturing that produces diverse results.
the dissected leaf of Malva moschata
the form of Chondrus crispus seaweed (photo by Andrea Ottesen)
Folium is the result of a multistage digital growth process created by Nervous System based on L-systems and spatial colonization algorithms. Our system yields diverse results both in overall shape and texture. The variably branched forms of the generated Folia range from round to tree-like. Some recall the dissected forms of maple leaves while others can be likened more to the dichotomously branched forms of Chondrus crispus seaweed. Complex network patterns populate the interior of each Folium in several distinct styles that suggest leaf venation, city street grids, braided rivers, or other branched, anastomosed reticulations. The exterior boundaries influence the interior networks as they expand to fill the contours of the space available. Each specimen demonstrates a unique and dynamic interplay between its outer and inner growth systems with the result that no two shapes or patterns are alike.
examples of the range of interior network patterns
examples of the range of exterior shapes
L-systems + space colonization: simulating plant growth
Our system, written in the open source program environment called Processing, is based on two algorithms developed to model plant forms. The first and oldest is L-systems. L-systems were originally created by botanist Aristid Lindenmayer in 1968 to illustrate the morphology of various plants and algae. They are descriptive rather than emergent systems, meaning they describe what occurs rather than how it occurs. In general, L-systems are used to model recursive branching structures, like those seen in trees. We use a non-deterministic L-system to define the shape of each Folium. Each growth outlines new parameters that vary the detail and shape of a branching skeleton. This skeleton is then skinned with a smooth, organic surface.
dichotomously branch ferns like this are easily described by l-systems
The interior network pattern is generated with a more modern algorithm now known as space colonization, which was first developed by Adam Runions of the Algorithmic Botany Group in 2005. The system was originally inspired by the auxin flux canalization theory of leaf venation, but has since been expanded to describe other space-filling, hierarchical structures such as trees. This model starts with a set of attraction points that are distributed throughout space. Growth starts at the root and grows toward the attraction points affecting it, with each attraction point’s impact limited only to its close neighbors. This process of attraction and growth repeats until all space is evenly filled. Our system explores numerous parameters and modifications of this algorithm to generate various and distinct, often unnatural results.
For more information about our work with this algorithm please see this blog post: http://n-e-r-v-o-u-s.com/blog/?p=1218
About the jewelry
Folia are available as necklaces and earrings. Each piece is photochemically etched from a thin sheet of stainless steel and measures approximately 2 x 2 inches. The necklaces come with 16-18” sterling silver or gold-filled chains, and the earrings hang from hypo-allergenic surgical steel earwires. Since every piece in the collection is one of a kind, each receives its own unique identifying number and is individually photographed.
Folium pendants in 24kt gold plated stainless steel – click here to shop
Folium Earrings in stainless steel – click here to shop
Folium Pendant in stainless steel – click here to shop
Posted: September 23rd, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: 3dprinting, travel | Tags: shapeways | 2 Comments »
Last week, Jesse and I visited the relatively new Shapeways factory in Long Island City, NY. It was great to finally be able to see where our products are 3D printed. When we first started working with Shapeways, they were based exclusively in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. About a year ago, they opened up their first manufacturing facility in the USA. Duann Scott, designer evangelist at Shapeways and all around awesome guy, showed us around. Since not all of you can make it to NYC for a tour, I figured I would post some photos and observations here.
The factory is in a nondescript industrial building with no signage. After some stair climbing and hallway navigating we reach Shapeways. On first impression, everything is white. The floor is white, the walls are white, the machines are white, the 3D prints are white and to top it off a fine white powder of nylon coats every surface. The factory has three different 3 printing technologies on site: Selective Laser Sintering, full color zprinting, and multi-jet resin printing. I’ll describe their setup for all three processes.
Selective Laser Sintering
The Shapeways NY factory has a truly impressive number of EOS selective laser sintering printers at the factory. These are the machines that print all of the nylon (or “white strong and flexible” as Shapeways calls it) parts and thus a large proportion of everything we sell at Nervous System. They have two rooms of these machines. One with about 4 medium sized EOS SINT P 395‘s and one giant EOS SINT P 760. And another room of smaller sized EOS Formiga p110 machines. The smaller Formiga machines are the ones being used for Shapeways new fast turnaround time for orders of White Strong and Flexible models (ships in 6 business days) which explains why those quick ship times are limited to designs less than 20cm. Considering that each one of these printers costs on the order of a half million dollars….that’s a lot of SLS machines! Correspondingly, a lot of man hours seems to go into planning the print jobs for those machines. Orders from many customers are painstakingly and efficiently packed into the build volume of each machine.
a tiny EOS formiga machine (left), a funky dust proof keyboards that comes with the EOS machines
We were told that printing a full build on one of the EOS SINT P 395′s takes around 36 hours and up to 48 hours on the P 760. During the week, they tend to run smaller builds on the machines that take around 12 hours each. During the sinter process, the nylon powder is heated to just below melting point in the build chamber. That means there is less thermal shock when the laser selectively sinters the 3d print. But it also means that after printing each build has to cool down for the same number of hours as 3d print time. So when they print a 36 hour job, it has to cool for 36 hours. When you take into account the scarcity of printers, print time, cooling time, and then man hours to depowder and do quality control on the prints – I start thinking that 6 day turn around time is quite impressive. It’s hard to imagine them being able to do it much faster without dramatically raising prices to account for inefficient use of the build volume.
After cooling, the nylon parts go through 3 stages of depowdering including a round of bead blasting. If parts have been ordered in a polished finish, they are then added to a giant rotary tumbler with cylindrical ceramic media and a mild alkaline solution. After polishing, nylon parts are colored in acid dye baths in stainless steel kitchen pots on hot plates.
Multi-jet resin printing
The resin 3d-printers live in a room isolated from the nylon dust of the SLS machines. They appeared to have 4 or 5 Projet 3000 machines from 3D systems. These machines work by jetting two materials, a clear plastic resin and a wax support that is cured with UV light. Shapeways uses them to produce their FUD (frosted ultra detail) material. It seemed like the majority of parts being printed on these machines were very small (size of my fingertip) scale models. After printing, the plastic parts are embedded in a block of wax support material. To remove the parts, the blocks are heated in a kiln to about 68 C/ 150 F and then cleaned in an ultrasonic bath. They use tea strainers to hold the parts in the bath, but it still seems like it must be very hard to keep track of all the minuscule parts through the various cleaning and checking operations. At the end of the process, they dry the parts in a beef jerky dehydrator (not kidding).
the kilns for removing wax support (left), the beef jerky makers for drying the resin parts (right)
Full color zprinting
In yet another room isolated from the nylon dust, Shapeways NY has a single Projet 660 full color powder printer from 3D systems. This machine works off the inkjet-inspired process developed by Z Corp that binds white plaster powder by printing colored glue. The process can produce photo-realistic parts. In one room, they have the printer, a depowdering station and an infiltration station. When parts come out of the machine, they are quite fragile and must be infiltrated with a cyanoacrylate (super glue) solution to strengthen the parts.
The Shapeways LIC factory seems to have grown tremendously in it’s first year of operation. I was impressed to hear that all US orders of nylon prints are currently being produced there. That’s a huge step forward from a year ago when parts were being made at the Einhoven factory or being outsourced to other companies. The facility seemed well organized, with plenty of room for expansion should more machines be necessary. It seems like the main areas of difficulty are planning out printer builds (how to pack hundreds of designs from different people’s orders) and how to track the produced parts through quality control and shipping. Is anyone working on a good packing algorithm for 3d models? What about using computer vision to identify and check 3D prints? I’m sure Shapeways would pay well for that technology.
Thanks for showing us around Duann! And a special hi to our customer service rep at Shapeways, Gary!
this is Gary, our customer service rep
Posted: June 20th, 2013 | Author: Lia Beauchemin | Filed under: 3dprinting, design, exhibition, furniture, housewares, jewelry, news | No Comments »
We’ve been working hard the past few months and are excited to share some details on a few of the projects and events that have been keeping us busy!
In May, we exhibited our latest lighting and furniture designs a the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. ICFF is a beautiful and inspiring exhibition and trade show that happens in conjunction with New York Design Week. We were also excited to be involved with a new project called DesignX that focuses on cutting-edge technologies. In the DesignX booth, Jesse and Jessica taught workshops on 3d-printing and online design customization to a group of excited 3d-printing and design enthusiasts.
At our booth, we showed our newest Hyphae lamp designs, including the recently added pendant (shown above) and wall sconce lamp designs. All of our one-of-a-kind lamp designs have been restocked on our retail webpage and several of these designs are available for immediate shipment. We also showed tables created in our soon-to-be-released Radiolaria custom furniture app (Keep reading for more details on our upcoming app release!)
Jesse and Jessica installing our booth display at ICFF
These are our new Hyphae wall sconces – available soon on our retail page!
Our ICFF booth! We love how our display came together so I recently installed it in our showroom
We love the way it looks against our awesome green wall!
Full moon necklaces
Our ever-popular full moon necklaces are back in stock in both stainless steel and 24k gold plated on our retail site. Each of these one-of-a-kind pendants is a pattern generated by aggregating tiny circles of varying sizes into a complex configuration within a circular boundary. The process we use mimics the growth of corals and other branching forms in nature. They make a really unique gift with an edition number etched onto one side of each one-of-a-kind necklace.
Sneak peek! Radiolaria table app
As promised, here is a little more about our soon-to-be-released custom table app!
At ICFF, we enjoyed letting people experiment with our Radiolaria web application for designing furniture. We also showed three prototype tables generated in the app and fabricated from baltic birch plywood using a CNC router. Using the app, you will be able to dynamically sculpt the table’s patterned top and select cells to hold plexiglass inserts. You can also choose your table’s height, number of legs and finish. We are still working on some finishing touches, so stay tuned for an update when the application goes live!
Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: events | No Comments »
In a few days we’re headed to New York City for our sixth International Contemporary Furniture Fair. We are exhibiting our work at booth 803 in the Javits Center from May 18th to May 21st. We’re also teaching workshops on 3D printing and product customization as a part of DesignX, a new ICFF event focusing on cutting-edge technologies. Please come check out our booth or our workshops!
Radiolaria Furniture App
We’re very excited to premiere the new version of our Radiolaria web app at ICFF; we’ve extended the app’s capabilities to allow anyone to design cellular furniture. We will have a computer in our booth where attendees can design their own tables and get instant pricing for their designs. The app is easy to use and flexible enough to create a diverse range of final products. Users dynamically sculpt the table’s patterned top, selecting which cells will hold plexiglass insets and which will remain open. They can also choose their table’s height, number of legs and finish. After an order is placed, we carve the table out of Baltic birch plywood with our CNC router.
We’ve been busy designing and fabricating example tables for our booth. You can see some photos below documenting our progress cutting the components for three tables with a ShopBot PRSAlpha Buddy CNC router last week.
We will also be presenting new additions to our family of generative lighting designs, including new pendant lamps and sconces. We’ll have 16 lamps of these one-of-a-kind lamps on display in our booth.
Finally, here’s a sketch of our booth design for this year. Keep an eye out for us as you explore the ICFF exhibits in the Javits Center!
Posted: April 3rd, 2013 | Author: aaron | Filed under: collaboration, education, events, exhibition, news | Tags: Cambridge Science Festival, education, events, exhibitions, Room 68, Science Crawl, Somerville Open Studios, xylem | No Comments »
We’re doing several fun events in the upcoming month, and we wanted to tell you about them.
3D Printing Night @Room 68 — April 4, 6-9pm
68 South St, Jamaica Plain, MA
Tomorrow night (April 4th) we’ll be at Room 68 from 6:00-9:00pm. Stores and galleries in Jamaica Plain stay open late on the first Thursday of each month, and our friends at Room 68 invited us to be involved. We love working with the Room 68 team, and we’re excited to be showing off a brand new cellular coffee table designed with our Radiolaria web app. You can also buy Nervous System lamps or jewelry and see a MakerBot 3D printer in action. Maybe we’ll make a 3D-printed cat for you!
Science Crawl @Xylem — April 18, 5-8pm
287 Third St, Cambridge, MA
On Thursday, April 18th, we’ll be hosting one of the stops on the Science Crawl, a Cambridge Science Festival event. We’re thankful to our friends at Xylem for letting us use their store. We hope you’ll come by and see the exhibition: we’re going to transform Xylem into a space where you can explore everything Nervous System. We’ll have all our new stuff on display, including tables, superhard jigsaw puzzles, and neon-colored jewelry. We’re also going to invite visitors to experiment with our interactive design tools, and Jesse and Jessica will be there to explain the math and science behind their designs. Ask them anything!
Somerville Open Studios @Nervous System — May 4-5, 12-6pm
561 Windsor St, Suite A206, Somerville, MA
In May, we’re going to be involved with Somerville Open Studios, a great event where artists all over Somerville invite people to see the spaces where they create. First, Nervous System will be featured at the Somerville Open Studios fashion show on May 1st. The fashion show starts at 7:30pm in the Center for Arts at the Armory. Then, on May 4th and 5th, the Nervous System studio will be open from noon til 6:00pm, and we’d love for you to come visit. We’ll be featuring our interactive design tools, and we plan to show some new experiments as well.
Posted: April 2nd, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: puzzles | 2 Comments »
We’re continuing our efforts to enhance traditional jigsaw puzzle craft using new technologies. Today we’re releasing a new series of jigsaw puzzles that can be put together in multiple ways. Each one-of-a-kind puzzle is actually a puzzle in a puzzle!
These 2-in-1 puzzles are designed to be extra challenging. Believe it or not, we’ve had people ask us to make our puzzles harder, so this is our answer. We’ve taken away all the clues that people normally use to put a puzzle together. Like our Natural Puzzles, these puzzles have no image, so assembly is guided solely by the shapes of the pieces. We further intensified the difficulty by eliminating the edge pieces and whimsies that usually serve as helpful starting points for puzzle assembly. Finally, to make things even more interesting, we included a sub-puzzle embedded within the puzzle! Roughly 70 colored pieces distributed throughout the 400-piece rectangular puzzle can be removed to form a smaller, circular puzzle.
John Stokes III, a puzzle crafter whose work we admire, proposed the idea of a puzzle within a puzzle to us at last year’s Puzzle Parley. One of the neat things about this concept is that you can actually only do it with digitally fabricated puzzles. When cutting wood puzzles by hand, two edges only fit together if they were physically cut apart with same pass of the scroll saw. Over the years, puzzlers have developed clever ways to make puzzles that fit together in different ways like cutting several pieces of plywood stacked together to create puzzles that can go together with some flexibility (ex. Stokes’ Octastar puzzle). But these methods are still limited by the physical constraints of a saw blade. However, using a laser cutter, we can create precise pieces that interlock even if they were cut separated or from different pieces of wood. Since then, we’ve been scheming of various ways to incorporate multiple configurations into our puzzles.
The embedded puzzle concept would be impossible without our technology-driven approach to design. We had to make several technical enhancements to the puzzle system in this new series. For these puzzles, we generate a smaller puzzle, automatically extract all the individual pieces, and then insert them into a larger puzzle as whimsies. In order to make sure the pieces are an exact fit, the whimsies need to be precise vector shapes instead of the raster whimsies we had developed before. In addition, we enhanced our automatic fixing features so that the inner puzzle pieces were robust enough for the whimsy insertion process.
The back of a 2-in-1 puzzle. The colored pieces are only stained on one side. Each puzzle includes two special laser engraved pieces: one with an edition number and another with the nervous system logo. Currently the puzzles are available with orange or purple pieces. We can do other colors by special request.
The 2-in-1 Challenge puzzles are now available for $200 on our website here.
We’ve also added a smaller challenge puzzle to our collection called the Amoeba Puzzle. The Amoeba is series of challenging, one of a kind puzzles featuring our amoeba style pieces. We’ve used the laser to darken the center of each piece to create a pattern of cell walls on one side of the puzzle. This puzzle is an extra challenge because it has no edge pieces and no image to guide assembly. Also, the woodgrain of the pieces does not match up. Each puzzle is a 7″ circle with around 70 pieces. They are available for $45 on our website here.
Posted: March 29th, 2013 | Author: Jessica Rosenkrantz | Filed under: jewelry | Tags: color, neon | No Comments »
Introducing our new seasonal colors: neon yellow and neon pink! Our 3d-printed jewelry designs are now available in these electric hues. We’ve also added them as material options in the Cell Cycle app so you can design your own neon creations.
Our Cell Cycle and Hyphae jewelry collections are 3d-printed in nylon by selective laser sintering (SLS). When they come out of the machine, the printed parts are white. But, they can be easily colored using acid dyes meant for nylon fabric. To get these intense neon hues, we spent a few days creating and testing different dye recipes. We mixed our own colors by combining different concentrations of commercially available colors, creating a spectrum of shades.
With the coming of our Spring/Summer colors, it’s time to say goodbye to our Fall/Winter color, turquoise. Our remaining stock of turquoise 3d-printed jewelry is now on sale for 50% off. Now is your last chance to purchase our designs in turquoise.
You can check out the new neon pieces here. If you have requests for next season’s colors, leave a comment on this post.