SINGAPORE – An intricately designed 3D printed cube, which represents the fusion of art and science, is one of the Republic’s contributions to an exhibit that humanity will send to the moon.
The cube, named Structure & Reflectance, is smaller than a standard die – measuring 0.98cm across – with four of its faces each representing a unique series of patterns.
The artwork is one of over 100 works of art selected by the Netherlands-based Moon Gallery Foundation as the first permanent extraterrestrial art gallery, which is expected to land on the moon of by 2025.
The art gallery, which comes in the form of a 10cm by 10cm and 1cm deep tray, will be on board a test flight to the International Space Station – the last frontier of the world. human habitat in space – via the NG-17 rocket as part of a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply mission in February 2022.
On its return flight, the Moon Gallery will become part of the technical payload of the NanoLab, a module for space research experiments.
The 3D printed cube was a collaboration between local artist and designer Lakshmi Mohanbabu and assistant professor Matteo Seita of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University.
Ms. Lakshmi also submitted another metallic orange cube, known as the Cube of Interaction, to the Moon Gallery.
This project was supported by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (Namic), which put Ms. Lakshmi in touch with various scientists from different organizations to help her fabricate her designs.
Dr Ho Chaw Sing, Co-Founder and CEO of Namic, said: “Space is humanity’s next frontier. Being the only Singaporean – among a select few from the global community – Lakshmi’s 3D printed cube presents a unique perspective through the fusion of art and technology. We are proud to have played a small role in supporting her in this “moon-shot” initiative.
The patterns visible on each side of the two cubes were recreated from Ms Lakshmi’s paintings, which revolve around concepts of the unity, diversity and complexity of humanity, she told the Straits Times in a report. exclusive interview.
“Part of the complexity is in the duality of people – there is the outer facade that we perceive on each other, but there are parts of ourselves that we do not reveal,” she said. .
“In a way, the moon has the same quality – there is the far side of the moon that still faces the Earth that we never got to see, until space travel make it possible. “
To create the 3D printed cube, finding a way to convey those ideas using materials was the main challenge, said Dr Seita, who is also a faculty member at NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.
“However, we soon realized that there is a clear parallel between materials and people, as they are both made up of very complex structures – and for the most part hidden,” he noted. .
For example, metals are made up of small crystallites with a different atomic lattice orientation, which we can only see with the naked eye when we treat the metal with chemicals.
These crystallites can take on different shapes, sizes and orientations in different metallic objects, depending on the processes used to make them, noted Dr. Seita.
“By using additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), we are able to control these characteristics – and therefore the structure of metals – to an incredible level of detail,” he added.
Each patterned face of the cube, which is made of stainless steel, consists of two separate crystals with different orientations and a shape that mimics the work of Ms. Lakshmi.
The patterns only appear after the metal cube has been placed in acid. During this treatment, one or the other of the crystals corrodes differently, creating a visual contrast on the surface of the face of the cube, said Dr. Seita.
Seen from certain angles in colorful light, these patterns come to life.
“This is the idea of perspective, the cube is able to take on the different colors shown in it – much like the way people see things with different colored lenses,” Ms. Lakshmi said.
The creation of the cube is also an ode to advances in space travel – building on the idea that never-before-seen parts of the moon are now illuminated for humanity, said Dr Seita.
The creation of the small complex cube also demonstrated the potential applications of 3D printing technology.
“We are now able to create objects with both complex geometry and complex structure, which would be impossible to achieve with any other manufacturing process,” said Dr Seita.
These capabilities could be used to produce parts using much less material, so that they are lighter, with improved durability and strength compared to conventional manufacturing.
This cutting-edge technology creates more opportunities for 3D printing in aerospace and aircraft manufacturing in the future, he added.