These “aquatic plants” are made with multi-material 3D printing

For her master thesis project at the Victoria University of Wellington, designer Nicole Hone created futuristic looking “aquatic plants” called Hydrophytes made with multi-material 3D printing.

Each plant was first designed in pencil sketch to visualise its form and movement mechanism. This design is then 3D modelled using various kinds of software. In this stage, the shape, surface texture and internal structures are modelled.

Each design is made up of multiple parts, of which the hardness is specified on the computer. The models use Stratasys PolyJet technology that allows blends of rigid and flexible resins and printed with a Connex machine. Each plant is 3D printed as a seamless object, blending acrylic-based and rubber-like resins which are then cured with UV light.

The printed models are encased in a jelly-like support material. The latter is removed by soaking the objects in water and by carefully cleaning the design with a toothpick. The cleaning process can take up to four hours for one print, depending on the complexity of the design.

Once the Hydrophytes are cleaned, they are pumped with water to separate the two membranes of material and flush out the support material. The designs are then emerged in water and inflated with air to choreograph their movements.

Hone explains that her design is essentially 4D printing, the fourth dimension being time. Rather than passive objects, the Hydrophytes can move and change their shape or appearance. The project showcases the concept of Computer-Generated Objects (CGO), which Hone says can be an alternative to CGI in filmmaking.

“In the physical space, the Hydrophytes (CGO) can respond to external forces such as gravity and water ripples or currents and interaction with people or other 3D prints in real life,” Hone states. “This balance between controlled design and uncontrolled natural interaction leads to the creation of compelling organic performances.”

In the future, Hone hopes to design content for exhibition spaces or films using this technology.

Photos: Nicole Hone


  1. Fiona Taylor says:

    Well done Nicole, What you have produced is amazing. I’m coming to Wgton in November and would love to see your work and meet you. I’m very much inspired by what you have created. I’m not affiliated with any company or anyone, I’m a designer who barely scraped through second year design school here in Perth. I have an intense desire for design (that almost makes me feel sick( bit similar to being lovesick I guess) I know I’m not part of the norm when it comes to design, I’m a sculptor and artist, there is something about your work that has really excited something in me. If you have the time, I’d be very grateful to meet you. My email is My name Fiona Taylor

  2. Sigrid says:

    Hi Fiona,

    To contact Nicole Hone, it would be best to go to her website (click on the link in the article).

    – Team MaterialDistrict