Interactive materials

Our work examines low-cost, DIY fabrication techniques. We are exploring ways to combine traditional craft such as screenprinting, ceramics, or cooking with interactive elements that coalesce organic, digital, and analog materials.

We specifically focus on DIY approaches to make our techniques accessible to and easily modifiable by non-academic communities. DIY can be defined as any creation, modification or repair of objects without the aid of paid professionals. Over the past few decades, new affordable materials and sharing technologies facilitated the rise of DIY as cultural and social practice.

During DIY work, a heterogeneous set of materials is drawn upon, along with knowledge across domains, skillsets, and levels of expertise. The hybrid and evolving nature of these artifacts aligns them with design things: they are never seen as finished projects, but rather, as modifiable and customizable concepts shaping and being shaped by DIY communities. The increasing accessibility of DIY practice paves the way for making, reconfiguring, and appropriating systems for scientific inquiry, both in and out of academic settings.

Our work explores heterogeneous DIY assemblies—sharing mechanisms, prototyping tools, and analog and digital materials,  that embody diverse skills, interests, and concerns in the form of physical artifacts. We are currently working on:

Screenprinting as a DIY fabrication method for interactive systems

Recent HCI research has innovated a number of printing methods to create interactive artifacts such as paper circuits, printable touch sensors, and thin-film displays. We contribute to this body of work by examining manual screen-printing as a creative fabrication technique for interactive systems. We focus on sreenprinting because it can be applied to a variety of substrate materials, ranging from paper and vinyl, to wood, plastic or metal, supports small and large scale prints, and is widely-accessible to non-professionals. We are working with three types of interactive components we developed using our own ultra low-cost inks: Resistive traces, Heat responsive prints, and UV responsive prints.

DIY methods for adding surface detail to 3D prints

Low-cost 3D printing methods have revolutionized DIY fabrication, and it is only a matter of time before high-fidelity color 3D printing technologies reach the average consumer market. In parallel to this trajectory, our work examines an ultra low-cost, DIY method for augmenting 3D objects with surface detail. We developed a software tool that maps 2D images onto 3D surfaces and an easy workflow for layering the resulting, warped images onto 3D printed artifacts. We assessed our approach in a workshop where local makers created 3D-printed nested dolls overlaid with personally designed images. Our workshop demonstrates the feasibility of our ultra low-cost method for adding rich surface detail to 3D objects, and our ongoing work will streamline this process and support more complex shapes.

3D printing for food

While 3D printers have become more accessible, it is still relatively expensive and time consuming to generate 3D prints. In addition, the materials commonly available for 3D printing are limited to certain types of plastics. We wanted to explore the possibilities of broadening the affordability and material variety for making multiple models by using traditional mold-making with 3D printed sources. This way, by 3D printing a single model, users would be able to create multiple finished molds using a variety of materials. Currently, we are developing software that generates 3D models from 2D images and working with culinary experts to develop recipes and cooking methods for 3D printed molds.