Illusory Material: Expand Material Presence to Experience
"Illusory Material" is a computational workflow that allows every designer to play with CMF or even material properties that never existed before in the design process, creating dream-like material and apply them into real-world product design. This project is an envision of future design methodology using computation power with the most advanced 3D printing technology in the world: multi-material voxel printing.
Imagine designing everyday products with "impossible" materials that only exist in the digital world; Imagine a future where designers can manipulate the color, texture, and reflectivity of materials across time and different viewing angles; Imagine the future of color creation is not based on layers of chemical paints, but a combination with optical 3D printed optical lenses and simple color blocks; imagine a physical material can display dynamically by itself without electronic input; imagine an invisible object that is informative, a hard object that feels soft....
For our client Stratasys, this project opens up new opportunities in multi-material 3D printing, by freeing the printing capability to creates materials with unique expressions that can never be done with any other manufacturing process and workflow.
Lenticular effect testingTo validate our calculation and observe the lenticular effect, we tested lenticular lenses on ink printed pattern first and then on three-dimensional objects with pattern 3D printed pattern on the surface.
Lenticular effect on free-from object
Lenticular effect on flexible materialWe tested the lenticular effect on a surface made from flexible materials, so that the optical effect responds dynamically with user intervention.
Application 1minimal perfume bottle revealing information on certain angle
Application 2Unream is a daytime artifact and a night lamp made by illusory material. Covered by lenticular lenses, the object shows dynamic colors in different viewing angles. With unream, we reimagined the relationship between human, space, and objects.
Application 3Loopop is the first-ever interactive lollipop that can display dynamically by itself. From different viewing angles, people see a continuous color change that looks like a digital screen playing in a loop.
Material serves as the first touchpoint between an object and a person. In current product development, material together with color and finishing is regarded as a separate entity from the form and function design. Every material needs to be paired with a series of optimal manufacturing processes for the desired effect. In many cases, this is handled with material design specialists. People perceive a material primarily by its surface: chromatic, tactile, and decorative identity it displays or the temperature and hardness when touching it. Typically, this material surface can be viewed as a two-dimensional entity that reveals limited-expression and information to be delivered via human intervention. We propose to get away from surface obsession in object and industrial design, by adding another dimension to the material interface. By embedding information into three-dimensional matter (voxel), we introduce illusory material: a new material organization that responds directly to the user intervention or the environment. With multi-material 3D printing, we envision a future in product development where the design of surface detail, texture, reflexivity can finally be merged with the overall product composition from the beginning of the design process. With voxel printing capability, we designed and tested material interface with depth and explored volumetric behavior that is both visually and functionally meaningful to the user.
Benefit to User
The current process of material visualization in product design not only slows down the design process but also limits the imaginations of what material can be in terms of form, textiles, and even a dynamic property that changes over time or with user intervention, etc. In most cases, the material creation is separate from the object design. Many design agencies assemble an existing material collection instead of material creation due to limited manufacturability and lack of expertise. There is an emerging "material service" ran by CMF specialists that help connect designers and suppliers for brand and product innovation. Their philosophy is that thinking about materials right from the beginning of a project is the key to the success of a product launch. Even without the help of external material services, most product design agencies have CMF designers who actively collect material information and explore material trends from design weeks, exhibitions, or directly from suppliers. We foresee the opportunity in material creation instead of material collection for product designers and agencies, using multi-material 3D printing. So that material creation does not separate from the object design, and the material itself does not has to be a single layer of a separate entity that only exists uniformly on a product surface. By assigning different material properties to each voxel in multi-material printing, designers can create object interfaces with various material distributions that can display unique material expressions.
Benefit to Client
Our client is a leading company in multi-material 3D printing. The printer used in this project Stratasys J750 is mainly designed for prototyping in product development, medical and film industry. In most cases, the model created by the printer is a "preview" of the final product before mass manufacturing. "Illusory material" breaks the traditional preception in 3D printing that it only tries to give designer a quick look of how the final product might look like, by freeing the printing capability to creates materials with unique properties that can never be done with any other manufacturing process.
Additionally, we invented a new pipeline for voxel printing: traditionally, it requires users to do lots of coding and computation (use software like Matlab). Our method is derived from the traditional 3D modeling process of industrial design, so that every designer who is familiar with CAD modeling can try voxel printing, without any knowledge about coding.
Benefit to Society
From an environmental perspective, we believe the project can reduce material, manufacturing, and recycling costs and efforts in the long run. Material itself is an illusion, we don't use materials for their physical entities, instead, we need the materials to perform different properties for various purposes. If there is one "super material" that can mimic any material properties in the production, we might solve the big problem of material waste, recycling, distribution etc. "Illusory material" is essentially "one" material for all. The printer material (made of resin) can mimic different material properties, color mixtures, and any optical effect. Imagining the future appearance design does not rely on layers of the secondary process, but a single print with the same material; imagine one day, all materials can display by themselves without electronics, how much waste it prevent? Imagine there's one material that mimics any material properties and can be 3D printed in any form, and can be recycled easily to become the original filament. We believe it is a near-future with multi-material 3D printing.