Biomimicry - Inspiration from a Seed


As a joint venture between the University of Exeter and Exeter Advanced Technologies (X-AT), Simpleware was asked to contribute to a set of exhibits on a theme of Biomimicry for the Eden Project’s Education Centre. Biomimicry is the imitation of nature to develop scientific and engineering processes and classic examples include Velcro®, inspired by burdock seeds; parachutes inspired by dandelion seeds and in particular relation to the Eden Project, the structure of a dragonfly’s eye as the inspiration behind the design of the Biomes.


  • Biomimicry - innovations taken from nature
  • Using microCT to analyse small structures
  • Ability to scale up STL models mesh for rapid prototyping

Thanks to

The project combines the knowledge and expertise provided by: the Eden ProjectExeter University, Simpleware Ltd. alongside subcontracted companies SkyScan and Exeter Advanced Technologies (X-AT).

Image Acquisition

A Burdock plant is any type of biennial thistle in the genus Arctium, family. The Burdock relies on animal-pollination for the distribution of seeds. This is achieved by the seeds having long arm like structures with small hooks on the end. This design makes it ideal for catching on passing animals or clothing. One seed was scanned in a SkyScan microCT scanner at a resolution of 2 micron.

Mesh and Model Generation

The image data was imported into ScanIP for segmentation. Due to the clear contrast between the seed and surrounding air, the image processing was relatively simple and very fast. Within a few minutes an STL file of the Burdock seed was ready to be exported for Rapid Prototyping. The STL was also scaled up so that the resulting plastic model could easily be used for visual inspection.


The resultant models will form elements to hands-on, interactive displays from which children and adults of all ages can learn about how scientists and engineers use nature as an invaluable source of inspiration.