world-economic-forum 3D printing neri oxman

By On Fri, January 22, 2016 · 3D Printing, NewsAdd Comment

The yearly World Economic Forum is under way in Davos, Switzerland, for the 55th year since its foundation. Here, the world’s foremost political and economic leaders sit down and discuss how to split up… well… how to improve on the use of the world’s resources, shaping global, regional, and industrial agendas. Whilst controversy is ripe at these kinds of meetings (since it is quite clear they have not been working out too well over the past decades) there is always room for those who are truly working to alter the world for the advantageous. One of these folks is visionary conceptual artist, material scientist, and MIT professor Neri Oxman.


The essay Professor Oxman presented focused on an thought that has quite been bringing off not long ago. The thought of the World-as-Organism. This is based on the Gaia theory by James Lovelock, that has been gaining acceptance one of scientists after being laughed at in the early days. Neri Oxman’s take on this is that additive, digital assembling empowers us to in fact grow objects and products in a way that is additional in line with the way the World Organism functions.

Stratasys Neri Oxman 3d printing MUSHTARI

Neri Oxman’s biologically-inspired MUSHTARI project.

Lovelock has a quite pessimistic outlook on the next, saying that we are may already beyond the point of no return. Based on what we see at present, his theories can in no way be argued against. He posits that we should not try to fix the planet, but just try to manufacture the most of a bad situation.

According to Oxman, the shift of the World-as-Machine approach, inherited of the previous industrial revolutions, to the World-as-Organism approach, possible through new assembling technologies, may actually go beyond assembling the most of the current situation and actually oppose a few of the injure done.

Unlike all three previous industrial revolutions, that were invarious to ecology— Oxman writes – this fresh point of view is not just bound to the effortless environment, it advantageouss nature at her own game. Inevitably, the World-as-Organism can supersede the World-as-Machine.


At the close of the Digital Age,” she writes, “design remains constrained by the canon of assembling and weight production – she goes on. Assembly lines yet dictate a world created of parts, limiting the imagination of designers and builders who are indoctrinated to ponder and manufacture in terms of discrete elements with distinct functions. Even the assumption that parts are created of single materials goes unchallenged. The legacies of Joseph Marie Jacquard and Henry Ford persist: homogeneous materials are created into predefined shapes at the service of predetermined functions.”

Through her work, Professor Oxman has been exploring how the Digital Age is allowing engineering and production at Mother Nature’s quantum scale, ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: the Biological Age. She has done this through several projects that hustleed the boundaries of assembling through multiple material 3D printing (in particular, through a collaboration with Stratasys).

Stratasys Neri Oxman 3d printing AL-QAMAR

Oxman’s AL-QAMAR piece.

This concept – summarised in the thought of Material Ecology – promotes the conceptualization of holistic products, characterized by property gradients and multi-functionality, and proposes a shift of consuming nature as a geological resource to editing it as a biological one.

The thought of expanding objects is clear in the work of several designers experimenting with 3D printing such as studios Nervous Systems, Growth Objects, and Emerging Objects. For Oxman “top-down form generation (additively manufactured) combined with bottom-up growth of biological systems (biologically synthesized) opens previously not easy opportunities: photosynthetic assembling façades that convert carbon into biofuel; wearable micro-biomes that nourish our skin through selective filtration; 3D printed matter that repairs injured tissue.”

On the other hand this may seem like a foreign and mysterious concept it is a lot easier than it sounds.The products of in the future are going to be created in a way that manufactures us blend in with nature and live symbiotically with the World Organism, instead of parasitically. The just issue remaining is to hustle the 7+ billion folks that inhabit the planet Earth to manufacture that shift. I’d suggest the 62 folks that own half the world’s affluence should most likely focus on that.

Davide Sher

About The Author

Davide was born in Milan, Italy and moved to New York at age 14, that is where he got his education, all the way to a BA. He moved back to Italy at 26 and began working as an editor for a trade magazine in the videogame industry. As the market shifted in the direction of new business models Davide started working for YouTech, the initially iPad native innovation magazine in Italy, where he found the world of additive assembling and became incredibly fascinated by its amazing future. Davide has since started to work as a freelance journalist and collaborate with most of Italy’s main generalist publications such as Corriere della Sera, Panorama, Focus Italy and Wired Italy: most of his articles have revolved around the various applications of 3D printing.