Title image comes from Laia Mogas's talk at Biofabricate 2016 describing her research on Functional Biomaterial Architectures at MIT MediaLab Mediated Matter Group, and at Tufts BME SilkLab
Attracting over 500 attendees, the third annual BioFabricate conference drew a crowd of scientists, academics, designers, entrepreneurs and artists for a full day of presentations, discussions and exhibits exploring innovations in contemporary bio tech. The presenters and panelists showcased a wide range of technology with a focus on the value created when designers participate in a cross-disciplinary fashion.
The opening session addressed the role of the designer in the world of biotech, with speakers encouraging designers to function as the interface between the user and the technology. Collaborating with experts allows a designer to ask questions and explore applications that don't typically arise. The formal boundaries of the lab were contrasted with the informal structure of the design studio, with designers seeking to be "disruptive without disrupting"—fostering innovation without causing total chaos.
The second session explored the concept of genetic ownership and access to DNA. Artists, designers and entrepreneurs all working with genetic material approached this idea from very different perspectives. Several of the presenters are making their ideas available to the non-scientific community through "kits" that make it easier to use the tools.
After a lunch break, the talks turned to tactical applications of bio tech, with presentations showing mycelium furniture from Ecovative, lab-grown bricks from BioMASON, fabrics made of engineered spider silk and more. All together, it was a strong showing of how the technology is moving out of the lab and into the mainstream. Overall, this session reinforced the notion of democratization of technology, showing how different companies from around the world are commercializing science.
The day wrapped up with an exciting product unveiling by adidas, who used the gathering as a place to showcase their Futurecraft Biofabric concept sneakers. The prototype shoes feature an upper made from Biosteel fiber, a high-performance fiber developed by the German biotech company, AMSilk. The material is lighter and stronger than conventional synthetic fibers, and is also 100% biodegradable. The audience loved the dramatic unveiling of the shoe, and it was a great example of how to bring the concept of bio fabrication to a broad consumer market.
The conference included a Design Lab showcasing exhibits, products and materials from the presenters. The conference was hosted by Parsons—the conference took place in the Tishman Auditorium in their new University Center building, while the Design Lab was housed in their new Making Space. We've written about their new facility previously, and this event showcased how important it is to offer spaces like this for students and the wider population. The photos below show some of the exhibits on display from the Design Lab.
adidas' Futurecraft Biofabric concept sneakers Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric
The prototype sneakers were unveiled at the end of the day. Audience members got a chance to lay their hands on them.
BIOESTERS - Biopolymer based textiles
This project was the winner of the 2016 BioDesign Challenge. The Bioesters group produced AlgiKnit, a biopolymer derived from Kelp. The material starts as a paste and is then physically and chemically transformed to produce monofilament that can be used in existing textile manufacturing infrastructure.
A new furniture collection using MycoBoard, a formaldehyde-free engineered wood, and BioMASON's biologically grown cement surface. MycoBoard is a biofabricated material grown using mydelium. The panels are biodegradable, strong, machinable and fire-resistant. BioMASON's technology uses microorganisms to grow strong and durable construction materials. Available soon here
Building materials as strong as concrete while embodying the vision of a circular economy. The pieces are made from non-soluble minerals, plant fibers, oils and natural resins, and incorporate 70% recycled content. All the pieces are fully bio-degradable and recyclable.
An automated and networked biofabrication machine that integrates the capabilities of a biology wetlab. It allows users a single platform to design, culture and test genetically modified organisms.
The goal of Amino Labs is to make genetic engineering education accessible to teachers, students and the general public. The Amino One is a countertop sized system that enables anyone to grow living cells and create new and interesting things such as fragrances, flavors, materials, medicine and more. To start Amino ships everything you need to engineer and grow your own pigments.
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Created by Antony Evans, this project is a genetically modified strain of moss (Physcometrella patens) that is engineered to produce patchouli scent. The goal is to help people use moss in the home to provide fragrance using sunlight, water and CO2 rather than petroleum products. It grows well indoors, is easily controlled and mass produced, and has no special nutrient or care needs.
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An ongoing process-based research project exploring the use of mycelium for the development of new materials. The project addresses the issues of waste generation, environmental impact of disposable products and animal exploitation.
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An open source kit that enable the sterile growth an maintenance of mammalian cells. It is a low cost system that can be easily extended and modified. The software is open source and the hardware is Arduino-based. Plans can be downloaded, and low-cost kits are available for purchase.
A research project by Professor Marcos Cruz from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. This project explores a new approach in design in which a range of material composites, computational techniques and biological growth lead to a new para-materiality in architecture.