tangible animation: nicole hone brings objects to life with 4D multimaterial printing

tangible animation: nicole hone brings objects to life with 4D multimaterial printing

industrial designer nicole hone reveals ‘hydrophytes’, futuristic aquatic plants created with multi-material 3D printing. the work explores the design and choreography of movement, advancing on the 4D printing research for film-making at victoria university of wellington in new zealand. with the alluring visual effects seen in movies, the designer wants to reach out and touch the objects behind the screen.

‘arrow pod’



hone’s project presents the concept of ‘tangible animation’ — bringing objects to life in the same world as the audience with 4D printing, where time is considered the fourth dimension. the hydrophytes are modeled using rhino and grasshopper in combination with ZBrush. the designs utilize stratasys polyjet technology that allows blends of rigid and flexible resins known as digital materials. sealed chambers enable the 4D prints to activate independently through pneumatic inflation.

‘feather nurse’



the hydrophytes illustrate a range of multifaceted, variable movements — their life-like qualities are unique to digital materials where each design embodies a different character and emotion. colored light is applied using a LED projector to complement the personality of each plant and enhance the perception of sentience. the film is true to life with no effects created in post-production.

‘nomadic cleaner’



these computer-generated objects (CGO) take advantage of both the digital world, with its versatility and efficiency in form-making, and the physical world, where objects can respond to the environment, humans and other printed objects. this balance between controlled design and uncontrolled natural interaction leads to the creation of compelling organic performances. with tangible animation, on-screen ‘magic’ is transformed into immersive physical encounters, advantageous for museums, theme parks, and the film industry.

‘imp root’


‘haven flower’


3D prints straight off the connex machine, encased in the support material


сarefully cleaning off the support material


уach design is 3D printed with different blends of rigid and flexible materials throughout the object


сross section view of the ‘heaven flower’ showing internal chambers for inflation


‘arrow pod’ close-up


‘feather nurse’ close-up


interacting with the ‘imp root’


project info:


designer: nicole hone

university program: master of design innovation degree at victoria university of wellington, new zealand

supervisors: ross stevens and bernard guy

supported by new zealand product accelerator


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: maria erman | designboom

  • Wonderful work Nicole! It is so beautiful, and so inspiring, on a number of levels. Just what the planet needs now, and into the future. The emphasis on nurturing, protection and regeneration rather than creating ‘form for form’s sake’ is brilliant. And all carried through with wit, sensitivity and precision. Not to mention poetry. And amazing presentation techniques! Recently I read about a ceramicist based in Hobart who made a series of ceramic cones to be placed on the sea floor to encourage a particular species to breed. That might be of interest.
    Milton Cameron

    Milton Cameron says:

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