3-D Printed Garden Blooms Before Your Eyes

Richard Clarkson is a master at creating futuristic versions of the natural world. His fluffy, cumulus, Cloud Lamp houses an Arduino board and subwoofer that together simulate a musical thunderstorm. Now, he’s invented a 3-D printed bed of flowers that can actually bloom, un-bloom, and bloom again. The project is called Blossom.

“We have seen the first fully 3-D printed gun, 3-D printed food, 3-D printed human organs,” Clarkson says of how the technology has advanced. “The really exciting aspect is that we are moving towards the potential to create more and more organic forms and interactions.”

To build Blossom, Clarkson–a master’s candidate at the School of Visual Arts–used the Objet 3-D printer that has dual jets, allowing for multiple materials to print at the same time. He combined a rubbery plastic with a clear, hard resin. The former material creates the curved outer petals, so when a puff of air is (manually) pumped in through the stem, the interior petals fall and push the outer petals down in a domino effect.

The Blossom installation requires a human hand to inflate, and therefore bloom, each tulip-like flower. But Clarkson is thinking ahead, about the future of interactive design. “Imagine a responsive environment where a field of blossoms were able to recognize you, to differentiate you from other people, and bloom in a specific way as you pass by,” he says. “Or perhaps a non-intrusive wayfinding system with blooms able to produce different scents to lead you on a visual and aromatic journey.”MR