I was lucky enough to volunteer for the recent Biofabricate conference held at Parsons School of Design in New York and witnessed talks, designs and art geared to fabrication with organisms. This is an emerging field filled with the excitement of sustainability, as well as the caution of genetic manipulation. The people attending were as interesting as the ideas presented, and I found myself chatting with someone with a 3D printing food studio, as well as someone from Tesla scouting new materials for cars. Innovative companies and startups around the world are looking to solve the problems of broken product life cycles, as well as the industry changes needed for new technologies. One of the most important facts I learned at the conference is that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world following the oil industry. So, although the conference wasn’t solely themed around fashion, here’s five projects that may encourage much needed change.
The top image shows test tubes of Spiber Inc‘s synthesized spider fiber in colors good enough for emoji hair. Remember that spider silk is considered one of the strongest materials around, so that makes it a plus for durable gear, which is precisely why the company is partnering with The North Face. I was able to touch a swatch of textile from their Luna Coat, which felt like a friendlier version of Cordura Nylon. The best part? No spider was killed in the production.
This earthy backpack and matching shoes are mycelium—that’s right mushrooms. Up close they look just a bit fuzzier than suede and their color is remarkable. These creations are from Officina Corpuscoli, which is doing a lot of exploration with fungus through collaborations with artists, as well as more natural 3D printing methods.
Here’s more mushroom magic in the form of leather, coming from MycoWorks. This company is able to quickly grow the material from mycelium in combination with agricultural byproducts. The interesting thing with these bio leathers is that the texture can be developed in the growing stages. It’s durable, breathable and water resistant with the added benefit of a closed production loop.
These knitted pieces aren’t as soft as yarn, but they are kind to the environment as they are algae based biodegradable filaments. This research is being conducted in Brooklyn by Bioesters, and includes customized 3D printing machines. The colors are beautiful and look a bit like stained glass.
Does this backpack look like human skin? Designer Tina Gorjanc is challenging her own views on the topic of tissue engineering technology and the protection of biological information. Her rawhide fashions under the name Pure Human have an edgy look with their hardware and tattoo embellishments. However, it’s her display which really makes its mark with faux sensors appearing to control temperature in the display cubes, as well as a patent application for growing leather from human hair DNA. What is Tina’s future with this work and what is our future in biotech? I know I left the conference with the hope of a reduced agri business and more sustainable products leading to less waste and pollution. You can bet I’ll be at next year’s conference to see the next move. A big shout-out to the Biofabricate team and also to Motherboard for great pics and media. For those of you with an interest in more natural materials, check out our Bamboo PLA for 3D printing. It’s recycled bamboo, but you just have to make sure it will work with your printer. Have fun experimenting in the plant world.
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