Variable Property Rapid Prototyping

June 23, 2012


Neri Oxman


Additive prototyping technologies have become an efficient and common means to deliver geometrically precise functional prototypes in relatively short periods of time. Most such technologies, however, remain limited to producing single-material, constant-property prototypes from a restricted range of materials. Inspired by Nature, where form is characterized by heterogeneous compositions, the paper presents a novel approach to layered manufacturing entitled variable property rapid prototyping. VPRP introduces the ability to dynamically mix, grade and vary the ratios of material properties to produce functional components with continuous gradients, highly optimized to fit their performance with efficient use of materials, reduction of waste and production of highly customizable features with added functionalities. A novel software approach entitled Variable Property Modelling is presented allowing designers to create structural components defined by their desired material behaviour. Research methods are presented and design applications demonstrated. Current technological limitations and future directions are discussed and their implications reviewed.

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