Skylar Tibbits is an architect and MIT fellow who worked with molecular scientist Arthur Olson to create a huge spinning device that demonstrates how particles can be attracted to one another when they move and come into contact, usually resulting in the creation of larger and more complex structures. This movie by Karen Eng shows the model, named the Self-Assembly Line, in motion.
What I particularly like about Skylar’s demonstration of the shaken-chain-link creation is it’s similarity to those tiny pill sized foam toys you see in the grocery store aisles. These are the cardboard-backed packages hanging off the sides of the grocery shelves which promise instant-dinosaurs or instant-sea-creatures. You drop one of those colored pills in warm water, the capsule dissolves, and you have a tiny foam dinosaur.1 With Skylar’s chain designs, one could “pre-program” a chain, hand it off to someone who would then shake it, and then the “pre-programmed” dinosaur2 shape would then emerge.3
How awesome would it be to pre-program little surprise toys that could be shaken into being? Interestingly, with some dissolveable PVA and a dual-extruder 3D printer, you could actually print the entire design as one solid piece, dunk it in water to remove the connections, and then hand it off to play with.
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