a machine to grow biomaterials at home

Video by Blue Bergen

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rethinking the way we make things:

 

The grow machine provides the perfect growing conditions for biomaterials... because they are the future, right? The incubator on the right-hand side is a clean environment with temperature, humidity and light controlled settings to adjust the environment inside to suit the particular living organism growing inside. 

The grow machine aims to bridge the gap between scientists developing biomaterials in laboratories and the amateur maker intrigued by the potential of growable materials. While the machine has been designed with mycelium (the roots of mushrooms) in mind, the conditions are also suitable for other biomaterials like cellulose. 

 

The strategy behind the Grow Machine for the user is:

Engagement in Manufacture + Design = Conscious Consumption

 

 

 
 
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connecting with our products through nature:

 

My work focuses on reduction of consumption through user engagement in production and creation. Through these mechanisms, I propose that customers will become aware of the time and resources required to make products, and thus come to value them more. I am interested in changing how users connect with their products by challenging the throw-away mentality. It is important to be an informed consumer of the life cycle of our products; if we are informed we are more likely to change our behaviour if something isn’t produced how we expect. For example, the clothes we buy from cheap brands are made in factories with very poor working conditions; if we knew that when we bought them it would form a negative narrative of the product and therefore influence their consumer decisions. In terms of biological materials if we were to grow our own products from waste packaging and then throw the item on the compost heap after use it would help people to see the journey of an object. 

 
 
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but, what can we grow:

 

There are millions of species of mycelium, which means there are also millions of types of mycelium affecting its material properties. However, there are some benefits that span the majority of fungal species:

Lightweight

Fire-retardant

Water-resistant (but shouldn’t be drenched)

Strong (shape depending)

Biodegradable when in a natural environment like a compost heap or soil (but not biodegrade in an inorganic dry environment).

 

The machine doesn’t offer a simple way to produce biodegradable objects; it requires creative thinkers to understand the material and how it grows., and then with that knowledge imagine and design an object within the constraints of the material properties. It takes time to learn and understand the process of working with a sensitive material during its growing phase. Here are some suggestions from designers and artists who I had introduced the project to: 

Bike helmet

Knee pads

Meditation cushion for camping

Seed growing pot

Shoes

Raw material for furniture and fabrication

Fabrics

‘Paper’ plates

Packaging

Dog toys

Bed

Seat cushions

Thin sheets to wrap objects for fire proofing

Surfboard

Edible wearables

Material connections 

High density material

 
 
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Autodesk Pier 9 Residency 

The grow machine was built during an incredible residency filled with learning and exploring manufacturing and fabrication. The pictures below are a selection of some of the processes it took to build The Grow Machine. 

 

 
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