When creativity and innovation mix, the result is usually brilliant and spectacular. This is usually what happens when a new technology is used to replicate natural phenomena. In the recent past there has been an exploration in the use of 3D printing technology to create numerous interesting things. But what Nervous System, a Massachusetts based-design studio, is attempting to do take use of technology to a whole new level. While 3D printing has been used to create excellent jewelry pieces, Nervous System is using auto generative design methods to replicate natural growth patterns to create jewelry items.
Things that grow in nature, like for example flowers blooming, the process is dependent on several things such as availability of nutrients, soil, orientation of the sun, wind and even gravity. But when an attempt is made to replicate nature taking the help of computers, these ‘natural’ dependents are replaced by algorithms and programming.
The design studio is combining algorithmic and physical tools to create unique and striking objects which have complex and unconventional geometrics. Called Floraform, the 3D printed-jewelry series is inspired from the biomechanics of simple life forms, especially growing plants and blooming flowers. The inspiration for the studio is completely how nature works to create specific forms, shapes and patterns by continuously changing the rate of growth in different growing surfaces. However, instead of taking inspiration from the more common growth forms found in nature, Nervous System exploits the unique development and evolution of surfaces created by organic, differential growth. The primary inspiration here is how the Celosia cristata flower blooms or the kleptoplastic sea slugs grow. As a result of close observation of natural growth processes, Nervous System has managed to create a line of jewelry that completely ‘grows’ using algorithm and computer programming.
Nervous System is a generative design studio which functions more like an intersection between art and technology. The studio was founded in 2007 by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg. They have been writing computer programs that have been based on processes and patterns found in nature and “use those programs to create unique and affordable art, jewelry, and housewares,’ the founders said in their blog.
Key to Floraform is the mechanics of differential growth which is essentially a biological process all life forms share. According to differential growth, the process is such that cells grow and expand only in certain areas resulting in the creation of specific shapes and patterns. It is a carefully coordinated subdivision and differentiation on a cellular level that gives each life form a shape and size and also makes one life form different from the other.
“If a single cell were to divide and grow uniformly, it would result in a wrinkled blob. However, through carefully coordinated subdivision and differentiation, biological systems produce structures with specific, reproducible forms and functions. Growth isn’t uniform but instead differential,” they explained to a specific section of online media. They specially focused on the differential growth process of the Cockscomb flower that blooms with a dense, convoluted mass of petals.
The designers have used three types of different growth patterns that can combine in multiple ways to create three types of bloom. The three types of differential growth patterns are - point-based or tip splitting, line-based or fasciated growth and edge-based growth.
POINT-BASED GROWTH PATTERN
LINE-BASED GROWTH PATTERN
EDGE-BASED GROWTH PATTERN
The design studio first used the concept of Floraform to create a series of sculptures for their “Growing Objects” series which was exhibited at Stonybrook University. For the jewelry line, each piece using the human body as an environmental constraint and accordingly grows. So for ‘growing’ every piece of jewelry, the designers had to keep in mind the shape of the finger, arm and neck. Right now the 3D printed jewelries are available only in plastic, metal and sterling silver and they are being sold directly from the Nervous System website. The studio is also on the process of developing a cloud-based version for users to digitally cultivate their virtual Floraform gardens.