Nature has had billions of years to perfect the art of sustainability. Australian inventor Kevin Inkster, head of Arbortech, has become something of an accidental biomimic. Look at Inkster’s products and you see something interesting about them – many seem more than a little organic. Some of his saws look like they may have once been part of a giant insect, and other tools seem to have been modelled from bones.

Surprisingly, this came about by accident rather than design. The company uses a fairly standard design software package to create its tools, but one of its features is that the user can specify that the design should be as minimalist as possible.His designers found that, if they briefed the software to remove anything that wasn’t necessary, the design software began to produce some rather unusual things that looked more animal than machine. For example, instead of straight tubular struts, they would turn out shaped like a bone, with wider ends and a narrow centre.

There is a simple explanation for this: when designing products, Inkster tries to use as few resources as possible. New modelling tools allow all of the desired product qualities to be put in – strength, torsion, compression – and then automatically create designs that meet these properties without wasting material. Designs like this are only copying the process that nature has been using for millions of years. As we continue to focus on resource efficiency, we will start to see even more similarities between what is natural and what is made by humans.


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