BMW and MIT create the first 3D-printed inflatable material
A collaboration between BMW and MIT's Self-Assembly Laboratory has produced a 3D-printed inflatable material that can change its shape and stiffness on command. It could be used in designing highly customizable and multifunctional car interiors.
Ifthe car of the future really is autonomous, then we may be about towitness a radical shift in the form and function of their interiors. Without theneed for wheels, pedals and front-facing seats, we could be headingtoward seats and compartments that morph into different shapes tomeet different needs at the touch of a button.
Aftera two-year collaboration, BMW and MIT haverecently presented a new printed inflatable material that might justdo the trick. It combines technologies like rapid liquid printing and soft robotics to create objectsakin to printable balloons that can change their shape and stiffnessin a matter of seconds.
Buildinginflatable materials of this kind would previously require complexelectromechanical devices or advanced moulding techniques, but these"liquid-printed pneumatics" can be manufactured by simple 3Dprinting in silicone.
Accordingto the researchers, the sample inflatable objects pictured above canbe customized to any size or shape by manipulating air pressure inany one of their seven independent chambers.
"Thereis no need to lock the car of the future into any particular shape.Interiors could even take on malleable, modular uses," saysMartina Starke, head of BMW Brand Vision. "Thisadaptive material technology points towards a future of transformablesurfaces for adaptive human comfort, cushioning and impactperformance."
Thematerial is on display at the exhibition The Future Starts Here in London.