Design of the Week: Puzzle Cell Complex

The Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

The Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

This week’s selection is the Puzzle Cell Complex by Nervous System. 

Nervous System are no strangers to these pages, as they have been exploring the complex world of generative design for about as long as I can remember. I found one of our stories mentioning them way back in 2009, and more recently we reported on how they worked with New Balance on custom-fit shoe designs

Recently the NY-based Nervous System team worked on a project for a digital fabrication conference to produce a work they call “Puzzle Cell Complex”. Sometimes the names of their projects are as mysterious as the geometries they produce. 

Here you can see a short video of the Puzzle Cell Complex on display. If you’re familiar with any of their previous designs, you will immediately recognize this as one of their classic styles: a mathematically generated shape with plenty of detail.  

The strange part of this design is that it actually NOT 3D printed, which therefore makes it a bit unusual for our 3D printing news site to select it as Design of the Week. But hear me out, there’s method to my madness.  

Diagram of how to produce the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

Diagram of how to produce the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

In their very detailed blog post, Nervous System explains how they went about designing this work. It starts with a “macro” view of a gyroid shape, and then is processed using several mathematical operations into the full Puzzle Cell Complex. 

Laser cutting pieces [Source: Nervous System]

Laser cutting pieces [Source: Nervous System]

The reason they pursued this approach is quite interesting. They wished to manufacture this item without using 3D printing, but instead using 2D methods, such as laser cutting. 

Detail of segment attachments for the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

Detail of segment attachments for the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

The design stages essentially split the complex shape into increasingly smaller pieces. Eventually the smallest pieces are actually reasonably flat in shape, and thus are producible on 2D manufacturing equipment. After the pieces are produced they can be assembled back into the full Puzzle Cell Complex. 

Assembling the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

Assembling the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

In other words, they found a way to 2D-manufacture a structure that would otherwise be only producible with a 3D printer. Amazing! 

Jessica Rosenkrantz testing 2D->3D assembly processes for the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

Jessica Rosenkrantz testing 2D->3D assembly processes for the Puzzle Cell Complex [Source: Nervous System]

I can’t wait to see what this team comes up with next. 

Via Nervous System