Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Tangible Animation - Designing Organic Performance with Multi-Material 3D/4D Printing

posted on 2021-12-07, 12:46 authored by Hone, Nicole

Movement transforms a physical object from static to alive. Multi-material 3D printing has the potential to create complex organic effects, given its ability to blend rigid and flexible materials. Add in the fourth dimension of time and the designer’s role extends beyond the design of the object itself and into the choreography of its movement. Despite the presence of this technology over the last decade, there is a lack of research that explores the aesthetics and application of organic movement. Current designs that are dynamic tend to focus on a single motion or lack a supporting context. Meanwhile, there is a desire for authentic, immersive experiences in museums, theme parks and films. In response, this research aims to showcase the potential for multi-material 3D/4D printing to design the organic performance of objects for the exhibition and film industry.  In this thesis, a thematic analysis defines the qualities of organic movement as having a curved shape, variable speed and multimodal composition. Research through Design with a Criteria-Based approach is then used to guide an iterative design process, seeking to translate these qualities into moving objects. The outcome of this research is a series of futuristic aquatic plants, 3D printed with pneumatic chambers and filmed within the context of a narrative. Effective organic behaviour is designed through the digital control of form and materiality, combined with natural physical interactions involving the environment, humans and other 3D prints. The interplay between these two disparate worlds builds on the concept of computer-generated objects (CGO). The design output demonstrates the value of CGO in creating compelling visuals on-screen and sensory interactive encounters in real life. The work highlights the importance of movement and tangibility in bringing objects to life in the same world as the audience. The research also contributes to advancing the practice of physical prop design through the development of 4D printing techniques. It elicits discussion around how multi-material 3D/4D printing aligns with the future of creating immersive experiences for the exhibition and film industry.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Industrial Design

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design


Stevens, Ross; Guy, Bernard