Creating Biohybrids

A fusion of digital fabrication technology and biology that explores new relationships between organism and machine

Biomimicry – designing materials and structures based on biological systems – has long been a fascinating approach used in architecture and design. While biomimicry is becoming increasingly popular, it is time to advance this field beyond aesthetics. By allowing an organisms’ natural chemical reactions and growth to direct the design process, natural processes can work in collaboration with digital fabrication technologies to generate complex and adaptive living structures.

As part of Jon McCormack’s ARC Future Fellowship – whose aim is to reimagine the fundamental processes of creative digital design in physical material – Natalie Alima is fusing biology, material science and robotic fabrication to develop a hybrid between machines and living organisms. By experimenting with a range of digitally fabricated forms, including nutrient scaffolds, host systems and customised 3D extruders, a choreographed sense of control and manipulation can be achieved over the natural organism.

bio-inspired 3D form-finding
A scaffold 3D printed from sawdust forms a nutrient host structure
The structures are prepared to be seeded with mycelium
The biohybrid growth after a few days

In this first stage of the project, 3D printed structures have been created using a substance containing sawdust. These structures are seeded with mycelium and form a scaffold over which the mycelium can grow as it consumes the sawdust. This is part of a series of experiments that explore the hybridisation of robotic fabrication and living organisms.

The research is ongoing.

Project members

Natalie Alima
Jon McCormack