Design for the Modern Prometheus: Towards an Integrated Biodesign Workflow

2016  Sharma, S., MS thesis, MIT

Biodesign is a growing field that harnesses the re-engineering capabilities of synthetic biology and the principles of design to create functional products on a variety of scales. It is now possible to precisely modify and program living organisms to create prod-ucts useful for medicine, fabrication, and more. These capabilities are today inspiring designers to consider, and design for opportunities associated with, the incorporation of biological and otherwise living matter into the built environment. Standard Com-puter Aided Design (CAD) software used in design and engineering often does not have resolution required for living systems, whereas many known bioCAD software do not allow for larger scales. In addition, simulations and animations are usually limited to a short timescale, and do not allow for predictive models over days or weeks. For creating environments in which living materials or systems, from bacterial biofilms to functional swarms, can intertwine with synthetically fabricated constructs, rapid prototyping software must be developed that can allow for both design and simula-tion in different conditions over time. This thesis is an attempt at creating a design methodology and finding a software platform for inclusion of living material systems in manufacturing of products on multiple scales. Existing biological CAD software is surveyed and applied to two case study projects engaging multiple scales (i.e. human scale, and architectural scale) for which the digital fabrication of living materials pro-vides additional functionality and augments the biological or ecological environment. In the process, novel work is presented in the areas of apiary management and 3D printing with biology. Additionally, several computational approaches, including rule based and agent-based techniques, are applied to both projects and evaluated for ac-curacy and usability. This research took place in Mediated Matters newly constructed BL2 Wet Lab, and serves as a demonstration of research that lies at the intersection of addititive manufacturing and synthetic biology. 

Design for the Modern Prometheus: Towards an Integrated Biodesign Workflow

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