Can a 3D printed object be responsive to its environment and to the dynamic energies of the people and processes that interact with it?”

Chuck Pettis challenged Sarah to have her students discover their project idea in the midst of the Earth Sanctuarys’ Callanish Stone Circle. As I sat there staring at the copper wire tree so beautifully sculpted and placed in the center of the offering circle, I wondered what my project would be. It wasn’t until I left the circle and reflected back on my observations that I decided to print a tree. Inspired by the possibilities of 3D printing by our guide Bryns’ shell bracelet, I wanted to make something that had movement and responded to it’s environment.

Hatam, Katie. An Island Tree. Olympia, Lake Lois Habitat Reserve. 2014. Photograph.

As I pondered how to make the 3D printed tree come alive, I began to research magnetic and conductive filaments. That research led me to two distinct places: the discovery of ferrofluid; and the discovery of vector equilibriums and torus shaped energy fields. As my project unfolded before me, I found myself wondering why I was even following this path. I had no prior knowledge of any of the things I was going to incorporate into my project, or even how or whether the final project was going to work.

I’m attempting to make a 3D printed object that will display the, usually invisible, magnetic field inside a snow globe like display. A colleague recently restated my theory somewhat more provocatively: I want to make the invisible, visible.

Hatam, Katie. The Magnetic Snow Globe. Olympia, The Evergreen State College. 2014. Drawing.

Ferrofluid is a combination of some type of magnetic nano-particles and a viscous fluid. Alone, it looks like a pool of oil. However, when placed within a magnetic field it will take on the shape of the magnetic field lines. When the ferrofluid is placed in water, it seems to float through the space.

Ferrofluid in a Bottle. Vat19. (n.d). Web. 17 Nov. 2014.
Ferrofluid in a Bottle. Vat19. (n.d). Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

In my research, I discovered others who were interested in creating interactive ferrofluid displays. Both the Fluxx LiquiMetal and Ferrocious sculptures allow the user to manipulate the ferrofluid using a hand held magnet.

Fluxx LiquiMetal. Krunal Patel. Kickstarter, 2014. Video.

See a video of the Fluxx LiquiMetal display in action.

Ferrocious. Russell Garehan. Kickstarter, 2013. Video.

See a video of the Ferrocious display in action.

However, neither of these displays demonstrate what I hope my project will: the usually invisible field lines of a magnetic field.

The 3D printed portion of my project will be the clear sphere within which the magnetic field will navigate and which will hold a combination of water and ferrofluid. Magnets will be placed in both the top and bottom caps of the double sided globe to create the magnetic field.

Hatam, Katie. Double Sided Snow Globe. 2014. TinkerCad. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

The theory is that the ferrofluid will float through the water along the field lines of the magnetic field created by the embedded magnets and create a magnetic snow globe much like you see in this mock prototype.

Cap: Anna Marynenko. White jar with silver cap isolated in white. n.d. Shutterstock. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. Globe: Paulmann. Paulmann Lighting 87000 2-6/16″ Glass Globe Deco Cover, Clear. n.d. Plumbersurplus. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. Torus Particles: Autodesk Help. Adjusting the velocity of moving particles. 2009. Autodesk. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.