Materiality in Motion: The Art of Robotic Fabrication
Yunyang Ma
Graduate Student, Taubman


Digital photos (3 in total) and a pdf


This series merges the realms of art and science, showcasing the potential of robotic fabrication to  sculpt materials into forms that resonate with both aesthetic beauty and scientific principle. Through  the medium of 3D printing, it delves into the exploration of material contrasts, the intricacies of  surface textures, and the elegance of minimal surfaces, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between  structural integrity and visual allure. Each piece embodies a dialogue between the tangible and the  conceptual, inviting viewers to ponder the delicate balance between form and function, and the  endless possibilities that emerge at the intersection of technology and creativity.

In this series, we delve into the fusion of art and science through the lens of robotic fabrication,  exploring material properties, 3D printing processes, and the geometrical elegance of minimal  surfaces. Each project not only showcases the aesthetic allure of the chosen materials and forms  but also embodies fundamental scientific principles that underpin the fabrication process. 

Project 1: Material Contrast and Robotic Precision  

Artistically, Project 1 juxtaposes the opaque, robust character of Carbon PETG with the translucent  delicacy of a clear PETG blend, creating a compelling visual narrative that speaks to the duality of  strength and aesthetics in material choice. The use of pure Carbon PETG results in a piece that  exudes solidity and resilience, while the introduction of clear PETG invites light and shadow into play,  enhancing the piece’s visual depth and complexity. 

From a scientific perspective, this project is a study in material behavior and robotic control. The  stability and toughness of Carbon PETG contrast with the more challenging, less predictable nature  of the clear PETG blend, highlighting the impact of material composition on fabrication outcomes.  The project emphasizes the importance of precise control over printing parameters, such as velocity  and extrusion rate, to accommodate the distinct properties of each material, ensuring both structural  integrity and aesthetic quality. 

Project 2: Surface Experimentation and Mold Making  

Project 2 ventures into the realm of artistic experimentation with surface textures and forms,  employing sine curves to design a mold that produces intricate patterns. This process not only  showcases the aesthetic potential of 3D printing in creating complex, textured surfaces but also invites  a contemplation of the interplay between randomness and order, as the printed surfaces oscillate  between these two states. 

Scientifically, the project is rooted in an exploration of 3D printing techniques and their application  in mold making. The challenge of printing enclosed versus open surfaces highlights the role of  geometric considerations in the structural success of printed objects. Moreover, the use of different  surface treatments to prevent material adhesion reveals the nuanced interplay between material  properties, surface conditions, and the ambient environment in achieving desired outcomes. 

Project 3: Minimal Surfaces and Structural Elegance  

The artistic endeavor of Project 3 lies in its exploration of minimal surfaces, where the beauty of these  forms is made tangible through 3D printing. The project draws on the inherent aesthetic and spatial  qualities of minimal surfaces, such as gyroids, to create objects that are visually engaging and  structurally coherent. 

The scientific foundation of this project lies in the geometrical and mechanical principles of minimal  surfaces, characterized by their constant mean curvature of zero. This property not only imparts a  unique aesthetic to the printed objects but also offers structural advantages, such as uniform tension  distribution. The project underscores the potential of 3D printing in materializing complex  mathematical concepts into physical forms that are both beautiful and functionally advantageous.