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Brief Published: 25 May 2016

MIT’s 3D-Printed Hair

MIT's 3D-printed hair can add warmth, adhesion, locomotion and a sense of touch to everyday objects

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have created software that can design and fabricate microscopic hairs for 3D printing.

The material, which mimics the hair-like cilia in our own bodies, has applications for everyday objects, including interactive tech displays.

The software can combine different types of cilia for nuanced tasks such as sorting small objects (for example, pills in a factory) or recognising more physical gestures on a multi-touch screen. The hair can also stick to itself – like Velcro.

The material could be used to print figures with super-detailed surface structures, such as jewellery with a soft touch, or paintbrushes with a customisable stroke. 

“The ability to fabricate customised hair structures enables us to create super-fine surface texture; mechanical adhesion property; new passive actuators; and touch sensors on a 3D-printed artefact,” said the researchers behind the project.

For more ways to enhance user interfaces and experiences with clever design and innovative materials, see our UI/UX Design for Future Consumers report. Explore Ultramodern Making: Latest Advances for 3D & 4D Printing for insight into the everyday use of additive printed materials.