Inspired by the way birds and fish move in large numbers, RMIT designers have brought old tradition and modern technology together in a new university mace.
The academic sceptre, or mace, was one of the earliest distinctive signs of medieval university officials and was originally a wooden staff carried by royal messengers.
RMIT’s new 3D-printed ceremonial mace aimed to reflect the nature of the university, said Chancellor Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO.
“We’re a very old institution but a very young university,” he said.
“It is the 21st century, how would we design a modern mace?”
Dr Roland Snooks, a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Design, said the new design was the result of combining innovation in engineering and innovation in the design process.
“This exercise has brought together RMIT’s collaborative strengths in industrial design, architecture, gold and silversmithing and 3D printing at our Advanced Manufacturing Precinct,” Snooks said.
“We’ve used a behavioural algorithm of the kind that operates a lot in natural systems. Flocks of birds, schools of fish, the way insects interact.
“It looks at the way those agents interact without any understanding of the overall flock or swarm but simply through some very simple interrelations to those immediately adjacent to them.
“Then through these thousands of millions of interactions, some type of global behaviour emerges.
“So it’s a generative design strategy. Rather than designing the overall form, it’s a strategy in which you design the rules from which design emerges.”
Snooks’ colleague, Dr Scott Mayson, said: “We have a titanium 3D printer in the Advanced Manufacturing Precinct that allows us to take a powder and, layer by layer, lay that powder out.
“The machine follows a path file and laser welds the titanium powder together. That then goes through many thousands of layers to produce the parts.”
The mace was produced in four parts and welded together.
It was used for the first time at RMIT’s annual graduation parade down Swanston Street and graduation ceremony at Etihad stadium in December last year, where more than 7000 students graduated in front of more than 30,000 family members.
Story: David Glanz
Video: Peter Clarke