The Bartlett School of Architecture


Rapid Kinetic / Solar Ecologies

Enrico Cacciapuoti, Dhruv Kumar and Min Zhang

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Rapid Kinetic is an educational toolkit for prototyping lightweight dynamic structures. It consists of custom 3D-printed modular snap-fit joints, DIY pneumatic artificial muscles, and a custom pneumatic control and simulation system. 

In addition to the kit itself, a platform of instructional videos allows makers to quickly build structures such as a bike frame, furniture, kinetic lights and a 3-axis robot arm. Through the creation of a collective community, makers can upload their designs with the kit and share their inventions and knowledge. 

Comprising of five key joint components, the modular design allows for a minimum amount of parts with multiple configurations. The manufacturing and low-cost production challenge drives the off-the-shelf material selection of the aluminum rods. DIY pneumatic artificial muscles – a lightweight and efficient actuator that can lift loads 40 times its own weight – complete the kit. 

To showcase the potentials of the kit, Solar Ecologies, a site-specific sculpture, explores the relationship between solar energy and the canals of the River Lee in East London. Inspired by the biological behaviour of plants and flower petal movements and their ability to adapt to light in different lighting conditions, three structures harness solar power during the day, and at night act as beacons of light along the canal. The structure is entirely constructed using the Rapid Kinetic kit of parts, Rapid Kinetic pneumatic muscles, aluminum beams and lightweight minimal tensile surface.