What Is Biomimicry And How Is It Changing Product Design?

Found in the rainforests of Central and South America, poison dart frogs are striking creatures, most noted for their bright colors and skin glans which selectively secrete lubricant or toxin in response to a threatening situation. When you look at one, you may think of the wilds of the Amazon, but do you also think about aviation? If you’re versed in the concept of biomimicy and you’re looking for a better way to make airplane ice-proof you might.

From The Renaissance To The Digital Age
Biomimicy is exactly what it sounds like. By understanding specific features and functions found in nature and applying them to your products, you can come up with some amazing innovations and new solutions to longtime problems.

Biomimicy, or biomimetics, is something humans have been playing with for ages. Look to Leonardo da Vinci’s bat-winged flying machine sketches and you have one of the earliest examples of biomimicry in a human application.  Though it’s not a new idea, modern design priorities such as sustainability and efficiency, coupled with new technology like 3D printing have amounted to a whole new era of biomimetic products.

dendrobates-tinctorius-blauer-baumsteiger

Filtering Email And Defying Gravity
Examples of biomimicy you’re probably already familiar with include ordinary things like Velcro, compact discs, and even your email’s junk filter, but it’s also penetrated highly complex systems and applications in the military, medical manufacturing, energy production and more.  The hollow bones and physical structure of seabirds have helped make Airbus’ planes more efficient and reduced material waste in the construction industry.

A gecko’s ability to use adhesive reversal when climbing vertical surfaces has been applied to robotic and military climbing equipment. Solar energy harnessing has been improved by imitating the leaf pattern of succulents and other plants.

These are very few examples among many. Just as there are countless examples of problem and solutions posed and solved in the natural world, the only limit to their potential use and imitation in human applications is our imagination.

algae

How Nature Poses Problems And Solves Them
The key to developing biomimetics is understanding how nature has overcome obstacles and what features found in a plant, animal, or a natural structure or system provide a specific advantage within a situation. In a sense, the natural world is a product development lab where designs are being tried and tested constantly and in limitless ways.

Now this approach is even helping us develop products build a more sustainable future for us and the natural world. This is shown through technologies like a billboard that condenses and filters moisture to produce drinkable water; steel-framed “trees” that harvest water, solar energy, house living plants, and disperse heat; and buildings that are powered by algae and fungus.

Next time you have a problem to solve or an interest in improving your product, you may find unexpected insight in a biology textbook, nature documentary, or even your own garden. Can you think of how growing trends in biomimicy have had an affect on your industry or approach to product development? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Article Sources:
http://www.sustainablebrands.com
http://www.theguardian.com
http://www.mirror.co.uk
http://www.popsci.com

Lisa Myers
 

Is a blogger with an interest for all things mechanical. She is a full-time mom with three active boys, who loves encouraging them to explore the world of science and engineering. They spend a lot of time together playing with Legos.

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