Felting Research Awarded $32,500 in Grant Funding

Jonas Hauptman, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, and Dr. Alan Asbeck, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, were awarded a $20,000 major SEAD grant from Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology in support of their research exploring the expansive possibilities of 3D robotic felting. Their collaboration will conduct initial research into the development of a new additive manufacturing process able to create structures with integrated rigid regions and a textile (PET felt) derived from recycled plastic bottles. The resulting structures will enable artists, designers, architects, and engineers to create new structures that would be very challenging to create otherwise. Their research combines a literal investigation into the potential capabilities of automated industrial felting with a conceptual investigation into felting as paradigm for future manufacturing processes.

In addition to SEAD funding, the Reciprocal Felting: Hand-Robot Learning Exchange project has also been awarded $12,500 from the Center for Craft to Hauptman and an external collaborator, artist Stephanie Metz, a California-based sculptor working primarily in wool and industrial felt.  Metz’s expertise in these materials and processes will support the translation of intelligent hand-labor to a larger scale and new materials. Studying her process, researchers will effectively use this information to train an industrial robot to behave with similar and likely higher dexterity, speed, and precision using sustainable, recycled materials.