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Inflatable silicone material is made using liquid printing

Researchers from BMW and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab collaborated to design the first 3D printed inflatable material made from silicone, using liquid printing. The material is able to self-transform, adapt and morph from one state to another.

Traditional 3D printing adds material layer for layer. Because these layers take some time to harden, a printed object can take a long time to make and may need reinforcement that is later removed. (Rapid) Liquid Printing, a method developed by the Self-Assembly Lab, prints object inside a gel, where gravity has less effect on the material. Read more about this process here.

BMW and MIT’s collaboration, which was started 2 years ago, aims to push the boundaries of material technologies. Their study ‘Liquid Printed Pneumatics’ resulted in the first example of a fully printed inflatable that can be customised to any size of shape. The printed object, made from silicone, can change shape depending on the amount of air pressure in the system. The pneumatic controls in this system allow the printed structure to transform into a variety of shapes, functions or stiffness characteristics.

Watch a video about the process here.

The inflatable material is on display in the V&A Museum in London in the exhibition “The Future Starts Here” from 12 May to 4 November 2018.

Photos: BMW / MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab