Wednesday, March 7, 2012

3D Color Printing Brings Math to Life

Today’s blog comes from George Hart of the Museum of Mathematics in NY.

At the Museum of Mathematics, which is opening later this year in New York City, we plan to show visitors that math is a fun, colorful, and creative subject. To that end, we are busy designing cool, hands-on exhibits, and I have used a 3D Systems hi-def color ZPrinter for making physical models of some exhibit ideas. But this blog post stems from another endeavor: Like many museums, we are raising money through a fundraiser dinner. I am very happy to have access to ZPrinter technology for making a series of festive mathematical centerpieces for this event.

3D printing allows the construction of intricate mathematical forms which could not be built by any other technology. The extra dimension of color allows for beautiful centerpieces that catch the eye and highlight mathematical features. Here are three of my favorites from this project:

This sculptural centerpiece has thirty yellow bumps, arranged like the vertices of an icosidodecahedron. But they connect to each other through meandering paths that weave through the interior. It is something of a maze to find a shortest path from one bump to another. Shades of color help highlight the overs and unders of the intricate paths.

This centerpiece is designed with floral elements connected in ways that give an organic impression without looking like any particular flower. Through twelve pentagonal openings, you can see that the interior features sixty 5-fold flower-like forms.
This design is purely geometric in character. A series of arches nest in a geometric series with smaller and smaller elements leading to the center. The geometric idea is based on five cubes, but they've undergone nonlinear transformations.

For more information and pictures of other centerpieces from this series, see my website.