Jifei Ou Dissertation Defense


Mesomatters: Design, Manufacturing, and Interaction with Mesoscopic Materials 

Between traditional industrial design, which operates at the macro scale (cm to m), and material engineering, which operates at the micro/nano scale (μm to nm), is the emerging design space of mesoscale. It is the scale of human hair or a grain of sand. It is the scale where material properties meet human perception, and rational meets intuition. In the past 10 years, additive manufacturing, especially 3D printing, enables designers to directly manipulate geometries at this scale. Yet the existing design and manufacturing methods could not unleash the full potential of mesoscale materials for the design world.

This thesis proposes a material-driven design methodology  that employs additive manufacturing to design materials at mesoscale for interaction and product design. The ability to programmably assemble materials with tailored structures at the centimeter, millimeter, and micrometer length scales enables tunable mechanical and electrical properties. Those properties determine not only the static performance, but also, when energized, the dynamic shape-change of a material. The emerging material performance and behavior allows us to design unprecedented objects and environments with input (sensing) and output (actuation) capabilities, which can be integrated for the next generation of human-computer interfaces. 

The outline of this thesis is divided into two parts: methodology and implementation. The methodology introduces three translations to bridge a material's microscopic properties with macroscopic interface design. Four research projects (bioLogic, KinetiX, SensorKnit, and Cilllia) are presented to embody the framework. I also demonstrate an implementation workflow for additive manufacturing of mesoscopic materials. The implementation is based on my main research project Cilllia, 3D printed functional hair structures. Cilllia investigates a scalable digital representation of hierarchical tunable materials, a CAD software interface for material design, a novel DLP-based 3D printer that allows for continuous material manufacturing, and functional materials that are made with Cilllia (mechanical adhesion, passive actuation and sensing.)

Committee members: 

Prof. Hiroshi Ishii | MIT Media Lab

Prof. Neri Oxman | MIT Media Lab

Prof. Jennifer Lewis | Harvard SEAS & Wyss Institute

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