Designing with Mycelium: Utilising spatial printing to create scaffolds for mycelium growth
With increased awareness of the environmental impact of synthetic materials, there has been an increase in research investigating more sustainable manufacturing methods and materials. Making appropriate sustainable material choices for designs is becoming essential, whether it is using more durable or adaptable materials that will last an extended period or integrating sustainable bio-materials into short-term products. In addition, there are a number of research projects that use natural growing systems to produce materials with placement being defined by 3D printing or digitally fabricated moulds. These have been referred to as Hybrid Construction Systems, as both natural and manmade techniques are combined as a fabrication system. This research portfolio investigates the opportunities and constraints of using mycelium-based composites in combination with spatially printed structures to dictate the form, materiality and potential use.
There are a number of recent projects that have focused around the use of mycelium in an architectural context, one being Mycotree which created a load-bearing structure from mycelium composite blocks that were generated through 3D graphic software (Heisel et al., 2017). A common trait of these projects and others, is that the method of making used a process of growing the composite in engineered moulds and later assembled.
Mycelium offers many unique material qualities, it is a naturally occurring resource that can perform as a structurally sound material when used correctly. One benefit of it beyond removing the use of synthetic materials is that it can be composted, when it is no longer needed, which could offer sustainable design alternative for short-term products or for large temporary structures.
This research explored the creation of spatially printed 3D scaffolds and the synergies of materials, methods of growth and manipulation of mycelium based composites. Form, pattern, and structure of 3D printed objects were analysed along with application techniques to identify suitability for mycelium growth. Processes identified as successful were then applied to the design of large scale structures that highlighted the opportunities of the developed method.
The findings in this report provide evidence that spatial printing could offer a scaffold for mycelium composites to grow, defining form and strength, creating an alternative method and unique design opportunities to the traditional use of casting moulds. This research portfolio presents the possibility for innovative manufacturing methods that adopt a collaboration between digitally defined forms and bio-materials, exploiting the freedom and accuracy of digital design while using highly sustainable materials.