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Scientists Developed 3D-Printed Inflatable Material for Automobiles

Novel Liquid-printed pneumatics enables car of the future to sport changing interiors with tunable shape and stiffness

3D printing material is found to have various applications such as 3D printed liquid silicone and metamaterials that are able to control sound and vibrations. MIT researchers are engaged in additive manufacturing projects which are majorly focused on graphene. New research conducted by MIT in collaboration with BMW is focused on liquid materials. Following two years of studies based on this material, the two partners have finally unveiled their results.

Researchers from BMW and MIT’s Self-Assembly Laboratory collaborated to produce a 3D-printed inflatable material, which can change its shape and stiffness according to requirements. The material can be designed for highly customizable and multifunctional automobile interiors. New printed inflatable material combines technologies such as rapid liquid printing and soft robotics to develop objects similar to printable balloons that can change their shape and stiffness in real-time. Although inflatable material is developed by complex electromechanical devices or advanced molding techniques, these ‘liquid-printed pneumatics’ can be manufactured by simple 3D printing in silicone.

According to the researchers, the sample inflatable objects can be customized to any size or shape by manipulating air pressure in any one of their seven independent chambers. “There is no need to lock the car of the future into any particular shape. Interiors could even take on malleable, modular uses,” said Martina Starke, head of BMW Brand Vision. “This adaptive material technology points towards a future of transformable surfaces for adaptive human comfort, cushioning and impact performance.” The material is on display at the exhibition The Future Starts in London.