A multifunctional body for an IoT System


DIATOMEA is the name of the project we developed for the Aircare system by Dauvea s.r.l., designed for air quality monitoring. This assignment was carried out by combining computational design strategies, parametric design, and 3D printing during the prototyping phase to develop a biomimetic logic in the product’s design.

Biomimetics: the guiding thread between parametric design and 3D Printing

To meet the client’s requirements, we devised an integrated solution where the refined design aimed at the product’s performance and was, in fact, its own expression. The purpose of the system itself suggested that we analyse the topology and morphology of Diatom skeletons to extract significant design, construction, and structural information.

Diatoms are unicellular brown algae widely used as indicators of water quality in Europe and the USA.

As reported by the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, all diatom species exhibit tolerance limits and optimal values concerning aquatic environmental conditions such as nutrient concentration, organic pollution, and acidity levels. Variations in temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, current velocity, and organic matter characterize their ecology and determine the distribution and abundance of various species in different habitats. Nutrient-rich waters tend to host more species compared to nutrient-poor waters, like those resulting from the melting of glaciers and snowfields. Conversely, some species are intolerant of high levels of one or more pollutants, while others can thrive in environments with widely varying quality states.

A distinctive feature of Diatoms is their cell wall, called a frustule, primarily composed of hydrated amorphous silica. The frustule consists of two valves, the upper part (epivalve) and the lower part (hypovalve), defined as valve plates with various surface ornamentations such as striae, consisting of ribs, pores, and alveoli. The edges of the two valves extend laterally to form connecting bands. The size, shape, and arrangement of all these elements are species-specific and hold significant systematic value necessary for the identification of each species.

An integral approach to product design

The topology of Diatoms offered numerous insights for our brief: the system’s enclosure needed to house electronics with environmental sensors and be air-permeable to ensure air circulation within the shell. Therefore, we studied how to develop a system that, by design, would generate an upward airflow using the temperature difference created by the heating of the electronics inside the shell. We managed to draw air from the outside through an integrated, hidden system of slots at the bottom of the enclosure and expel the analysed warm air from the upper surface, which functions as a breathable membrane. The alveoli that characterize this design are configured as a structural, breathable framework that can be industrially produced by injection moulding or 3D printing for small series.

Computational and parametric design

The computational design of the membrane and the parametric-associative definition of the entire body topology, including all details and features, allowed us to work simultaneously on both design and production in an integrated manner, while taking maximum advantage of the 3D printing capabilities of ALO internal laboratory for digital fabrication.

Product Design: at the intersection of branding and performance

The client’s logo was transformed into a communication element with an integrated RGB LED light, indicating its status and air quality to users. This solution combines utility and branding without adding anything but instead leveraging the inherent design of the object for a refined and consistently integrated result.

Towards large-scale industrial production

All prototypes were created in ALO’s digital fabrication laboratory, allowing us to test and corroborate the design choices and develop elegant details and solutions ready for large-scale production, including injection molding. With the DIATOMEA project, ALO s.r.l. demonstrated how innovative and functional design can enhance the effectiveness of environmental monitoring systems while ensuring both aesthetics and industrial practicality.




+ AWARDS, PUBLICATIONS and Exhibitions


+ Photographer

Marco Verde

+ Keywords

Computational Design, Parametri Design, Custom non-standard design, Digital Fabrication, Poplar Plywood, Advanced Wood construction, Parameteric-Associative Design, Composite materials



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