The Silk Pavilion created by the MIT Media Lab shows just how amazing collaboration between digital and biological fabrication can be.
The Pavilion is a network made from a CNC 3D printing machine which has become a cloud-like structure with the addition of natural netting from the 6,500 live silkworms squirming all over its shell.
Silkworms have been used for millennia to give us our beloved silk, yet that process has always required a level of harvesting-boiling cocoons to generate silk filament. MIT has discovered how to manipulate the worms to shape silk for us natively.
Through biological hacks, tweaking light, heat, and basic geometric scaffolding, researchers can guide the worms to create the intricate and varied patterns necessary to beautiful and complex creations.
"The geometrical density of the pavilion, as well variations in heat and natural light, caused the silkworms to “migrate to darker and denser areas.” To that end, the students gave The Silk Pavilion a season-specific sun path diagram.”
In short, a biological swarm can break outside the bounds of even the largest 3-D printer, building structures in their actual environments, like a 3-D printer that can print itself with all the virulence of an insect colony.