BMW, MIT design first inflatable additive material
Car-maker sees liquid-printed pneumatic material as potentially transformative for automotive interiors.
“The outcome of this collaboration manifests that a new material future is imminent,” says Martina Starke, head of BMW Brand Vision and BMW Brand Design at BMW Group. “There is no need to lock the car of the future into any particular shape. Interiors could even take on malleable, modular uses.”
After two years of testing, researchers at the Self-Assembly Lab achieved a breakthrough when they managed to liquid print air- and water-tight inflatable geometries, like customized printable balloons. With this technology, the researchers say they can produce complex channels and pockets that self-transform.
“We then brought together a number of recent technologies such as Rapid Liquid Printing and techniques from soft robotics to achieve this adaptive material structure. In the past, scenarios like these have often required error-prone and complex electro-mechanical devices or complex moulding/tooling to produce inflatables. Now we’re able to print complex inflatable structures with custom actuation and tuneable stiffness.”
“This adaptive material technology,” Starke adds, “points towards a future of transformable surfaces for adaptive human comfort, cushioning and impact performance.”