Biomimicry of genetic fractals

Genetic fractals are inspired by nature: the way in which nature creates living organisms such as plants and animals. These creatures all start out as a single cell that replicates itself and specialises as determined by its DNA.

Genetic fractals take the same approach. Starting from a point, pieces of material get added as determined by the genetic code of the genetic fractal. Each new piece relates to its neighbours and this relationship, whether it concerns its position and orientation or another physical relationship is encoded in a specific gene that makes up the genetic code. As in nature, we will often see patterns occur that are caused by the repeated application of a gene instruction. This is what gives rise to the fractal nature of these objects.

What makes genetic fractals such interesting objects is that their structure and geometry is entirely determined by its one-dimensional genetic code. So, a one-dimensional code governs a three (or more) dimensional object!

One of the big challenges that 3D designers face is the need to manipulate 3D objects using sophisticated software tools. This challenge is a barrier to non-professional designers: the tools are too hard to use. Even 3D professionals find it so hard that many engineers still resort to 2D representations of 3D designs.

‘DNA’ of a genetic fractal

The beauty of genetic fractals is that we only need to design in a 1D environment! Designing a 3D object requires us to manipulate a genetic code that is a one dimensional list of gene instructions. Can it get simpler?


Genetic engineering in action
The example below shows a genetic code (the ‘DNA’) that can generate a simple chair. But we may want to improve the design of the legs. All we have to do is replace a chunk of the DNA that represents the legs by some other chunk that we either wrote afresh or copied from another chair that we particularly like.

DNA1 - chairs

Replacing chunks of DNA (in blue) changes the design of chair legs. Further changes to the back rest and the seat increasing improve the design of the chair. The most important part: we have only edited the genetic code of the chair; we didn’t need to use complicated 3D editors and mesh tools. Based on the changed DNA the genetic fractal generator will create the new chair which could be manufactured on a 3D printer.

DNA2 - chairs

Language of genetic fractals

The coding of these objects uses a new and original language. It is simply a sequence of instructions which are composed of basic elements, like cells, and genes (i.e. algorithms) that determine how these cells are to be replicated.
Our ability to create interesting objects will depend entirely on the richness of the libraries of cells and genes. We can already do a lot with simple cells like sphere and sticks and genes that simply replicate or split the cells but as the libraries evolve, the things wecan create become limitless and quite amazing.

genetic fractal cells

It will be interesting to see what artists, designers, engineers and any one interested will do with this curious tool of genetic fractals. We are certain to see new styles, designs, structures and machines that we have never seen before.


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