BMW and MIT have collaborated to create the world’s first inflatable material that can self-transform, adapt and morph from one state to another.
The new invention is an outcome of a two-year cross-disciplinary study undertaken by the BMW Design Department and MIT’s Self-Assembly Laboratory.
BMW’s forward thinking concepts of future interiors that can interact and adapt seamlessly were the starting point of an in depth exploration by MIT’s Self-Assembly Laboratory.
According to the researchers, the fully printed inflatable can be customized to any size or shape. The silicone printed object can change shape depending on the amount of air pressure in the system.
Moreover, the pneumatic controls in the system allow the printed structure to transform into a variety of shapes, functions or stiffness characteristics.
“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.
Starke was eager to move away from the company’s current understanding of car interiors as the forces reshaping the nature of transportation are eventually shifting toward a kind of vehicle that defies conventions:
“There is no need to lock the car of the future into any particular shape. Interiors could even take on malleable, modular uses“, she explains.
After testing various directions on how a visionary interior could take shape, the experts at the Self-Assembly Lab achieved a breakthrough when they managed to liquid print air and water-tight inflatable geometries, like customized printable balloons.
Skylar Tibbits, founder of the Self-Assembly Lab said: “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 electromechanical devices or complex molding/tooling to produce inflatables. Now we’re able to print complex inflatable structures with custom actuation and tuneable stiffness.“
Video, image and content copyrights: DPCcars/BMW Design Department-BMW Group