Deconstruction: Cell Cycle by Nervous System

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Cell Cycle is a line of 3D printed nylon and stainless steel jewelry. It is based on our interest in 3D forms, cellular patterns, and the idea of subdivision (cell splitting). The pieces were designed using custom software that we created. Instead of sculpting the pieces by hand or modeling them in a commercial software, we wrote our own program that encodes a system for creating 3d form. We call this process “computational design.” I am going to take you through some of the development of these pieces. Because most of the steps occurred in the computer instead of in the physical world, it probably looks a little different than your typical product development.

These pieces developed from previous work we did creating a line of flat 2d jewelry out of silicone rubber that we call our Radiolaria line. The Radiolaria pieces were based on a physics simulation of springs arranged in a cellular mesh. I won’t go into exactly what that means, but essentially it plays with morphing a hexagonal grid using physical principles.

One of the great things about working in code is you can directly extend and build upon previously work. You can literally add to previous code to continue developing a concept. Here, we wanted to add new functionality to our Radiolaria line by being able to subdivide cells into smaller cells. This allows us to play with shifting scale and more “organic” patterns. This video shows a 2D simulation that starts with a regular grid of cells and then randomly picks ones to subdivide. Each cell is divided into three child cells.

The other primary change is we wanted to make the pieces in 3D and have them 3D printed. This was probably the largest step in terms of code. Creating 3D forms that are suitable for printing adds much complexity beyond 2D shapes and lines. Conceptually, we took two 2D meshes and wrapped them onto a cylinder. One layer relaxes inward and one relaxes outward creating an interstitial space that would be difficult to replicate using conventional manufacturing methods.

Here are some early test pieces we made to get a sense of scale, sizing, materiality and strength.

images and content from: DESIGN MILK

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