Using a novel 3D-printing technique to recreate Jackson Pollock’s art through reverse-engineering.


Trained Machines and the Art of Jackson Pollock: Unleashing the Potential of 3D Printing

Can a machine be trained to paint like Jackson Pollock? Can 3D printing mimic Pollock’s unique technique to quickly and accurately reproduce complex shapes? These intriguing questions have been explored by a team of researchers led by L. Mahadevan, a professor at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Mahadevan and his team merged the fields of physics and machine learning to develop a new 3D printing method capable of creating intricate physical patterns, including replicating a segment of a Pollock painting. Their findings were published in the journal Soft Matter.

While 3D and 4D printing have revolutionized manufacturing, the process is often tedious and time-consuming. The fundamental obstacle lies in physics. Liquid inks are governed by the principles of fluid dynamics, which means that when they fall from a certain height, they become unstable, folding and coiling upon themselves. You can observe this phenomenon at home by drizzling honey onto a piece of toast.

Over two decades ago, Mahadevan proposed a simple explanation for this process and later suggested that Pollock might have intuitively employed these principles in his work. Most contemporary 3D and 4D printing techniques position the print nozzle just millimeters away from the surface, essentially eliminating the dynamic instability of the liquid stream. However, Mahadevan’s mindset is different: rather than avoiding physics, he seeks to exploit it.

“We wanted to develop a technique that could take advantage of the folding and coiling instabilities, rather than avoid them,” explains former postdoctoral fellow Gaurav Chaudhary, the first author of the paper.

Pollock famously created his iconic drip paintings by placing a canvas on the floor and dripping, pouring, and splashing paint onto it from above. To the untrained eye, his technique may appear haphazard, but Pollock asserted that he had complete control over the paint flow. Dubbed “action painting,” Pollock would draw in the space above the canvas, creating shapes in the air that would eventually fall onto the surface below.

Traditional 3D printers follow a specific path from point A to point B, with the nozzle depositing ink along this predetermined trajectory. However, Pollock’s approach of throwing paint from a height meant that even if his hand moved in a particular direction, the paint did not strictly follow that path due to the acceleration gained from gravity. A small motion could lead to a large splatter of paint.

To tackle this challenge, Mahadevan and Chaudhary, along with co-authors Stephanie Christ and Professor A. John Hart, combined the physics of coiling with deep reinforcement learning, an iterative algorithmic approach to enhancing performance. The team utilized techniques developed by Petros Koumoutsakos, a computing expert at SEAS.

“Deep reinforcement learning allows the model to learn from its mistakes and improve with each trial,” explains Chaudhary.

Employing this technique, the researchers successfully printed a series of complex shapes, mimicking Pollock’s approach and even decorating a cookie with chocolate syrup. While simple fluids were used in this research, the approach has the potential to be expanded to include more complex fluids like liquid polymers, pastes, and various types of foods.

By harnessing the power of physical processes, the team has unveiled a new realm of possibilities for intelligent design and engineering. This small example offers a glimpse into the evolution of technology and its ability to replicate and enhance the artistic techniques of renowned masters like Jackson Pollock.

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Soft Matter, Gaurav Chaudhary and his team at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have made a fascinating discovery about the art of writing. They have found that learning the fluid rope trick can actually enhance our writing skills.

The fluid rope trick, also known as the “world’s toughest knot,” has been a subject of fascination for generations. It involves creating a loop with a length of rope and then pulling the ends in opposite directions to create a mesmerizing pattern of interlocking twists and turns. Mastering this trick requires a deep understanding of the fluid dynamics at play, as well as precise hand-eye coordination.

Chaudhary and his team wondered if there could be a link between learning the fluid rope trick and improving writing abilities. To explore this hypothesis, they conducted a series of experiments with a group of participants, all of whom were novice writers.

For the first part of the study, the participants were trained in the fluid rope trick. They spent hours practicing the intricate movements and learning to manipulate the rope with finesse. Once they had mastered the trick, the researchers turned their attention to their writing skills.

To evaluate the participants’ writing abilities, Chaudhary and his team asked them to compose short essays on various topics. The essays were then analyzed based on several criteria, including coherence, grammar, and creativity.

The results were astonishing. The participants who had learned the fluid rope trick demonstrated significant improvements in their writing skills compared to the control group. Their essays were more coherent, grammatically correct, and displayed a higher degree of creativity.

But why does learning a physical, knot-tying trick have an impact on our ability to write? According to Chaudhary, there could be several explanations. One possibility is that mastering the fluid rope trick enhances our hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, which in turn improve our control over the pen or keyboard. Another explanation could be that learning such a complex task trains our brain to think more systematically and creatively, skills that are essential for effective writing.

“While the exact mechanisms behind this correlation are still unclear, our findings suggest that there is a strong relationship between the physical and cognitive processes involved in knot-tying and the act of writing,” explained Chaudhary.

The implications of this research are significant. Writing is a fundamental skill that we use every day, whether it’s for academic purposes, creative expression, or professional communication. Finding effective ways to enhance our writing abilities can have a profound impact on our personal and professional lives.

As the study continues, Chaudhary and his team are excited to explore further avenues for inspiration. “When you’re in Maha’s lab, nothing is off the table,” remarked one team member. The possibilities are endless, and who knows what other unexpected connections and insights will emerge from their innovative research.

In conclusion, the study conducted by Chaudhary and his team at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences reveals an intriguing link between learning the fluid rope trick and improving writing skills. This finding opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for enhancing our writing abilities and sheds light on the interconnectedness of physical and cognitive processes. It’s fascinating to think that by mastering a seemingly unrelated task, such as knot-tying, we can unlock hidden potential in our writing talents. So, the next time you find yourself struggling to put words on paper, maybe a few rounds of the fluid rope trick can help unleash your inner wordsmith.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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