The 3D printing industry keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the technology involved keeps getting more and more ridiculously science-fiction-y. It really is the future of manufacturing, because, as researchers at MIT recently proved, you really can create dang near anything via 3D printing. MIT’s newest development: lifelike 3D printed hair.
It’s Called “Cilllia,” Silly
The Tangible Media Group, which sounds like the name of a front for a criminal organization in a crappy Michael Bay movie*, working out of MIT’s Media Lab, has developed a unique process for creating micro-pillar objects they’re calling “cilllia” [sic]. Obviously, cilllia is the result of several metric tons of experimentation and trial and error.
The key to TMG’s discovery was a new type of 3D printing process. Digital printing equipment using existing CAD software was not capable of printing the incredibly thin strands the team was looking for, so they built a brand new custom software program. “We built [software] to let one quickly define a hair’s angle, thickness, density, and height,” said TMG’s Jifei Ou. “We can [now] 3D print super-dense hair surface at micron density.”
“Just how micron is that density?,” you ask. Despite your query making no sense, the answer is very micron. Cilllia can be printed in a broad spectrum of hair and hair-adjacent forms, including strands as miniscule as 50 micrometers—essentially the same thickness as the average strand of human hair. Cilllia strands can be as stiff as badger hair or as soft as a Persian cat’s fur.
This being MIT we’re talking about, the new 3D printed hair of course does more than just be hair. The Tangible Media Group is currently developing ways to add all sorts of micro-technology into cilllia strands. Mechanical adhesions, actuators, sensors, and more will soon be incorporated, allowing researchers to create swatches of faux-hair that can react to and interact with the surrounding environment. Current applications of this nigh-unbelievable technology include a windmill-like structure that spins when it detects vibration and a patch of cilllia that can detect the touch and respond to different movements of a finger.
Sounds like this cilllia stuff could really give whatever the hell that thing on Donald Drumpf’s head is a run for its money. #makedonalddrumpfagain
* I realize “crappy Michael Bay movie” is redundant