Hard + Soft: Robotic Needle Felting for Nonwoven Textiles
Hard + Soft marries robotic needle-felting processes with textile manipulation. Nonwoven textiles, comprising of wool, synthetic, and blends of the two have numerous performative characteristics, including excellent acoustic absorption, thermal insulation, and a range of tactile effects. Non-woven textiles such as felt can be manufactured in a variety of methods, one of which is needle felting. While needle-felting techniques can range from a single needle manipulated by hand to industrial scale production on continuous web materials, they all rely on the barbed needle meshing and entangling the fibers. This process binds the material together seamlessly without the addition of sewn thread or adhesives. Robotic processes not only enable precision and speed in the manufacturing of felt but they also extend its capabilities as a three-dimensional process, allowing for local differentiation of stiffness and other properties across a homogenous solid. Through a digital workflow, formal and material properties are computationally informed and can be varied continuously. This capacity for designed variation opens a wide range of potentials for architectural design and applications. The research presented involves the development of 1) the technology for robotic felting, 2) the computational workflow that enables the control of the process to be embedded into the digital design environment, and 3) the prototypes of architectural elements such as acoustic panels and clad surfaces demonstrating the different techniques and processes.
Tsz Yan Ng