AeroMorph – Shape Changing Material

Could this futuristic inflatable fabric change industrial design?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is always at the forefront of technological advancements. MIT’s tangible media group presents “aeroMorph”, a programmable paper, plastic, and fabric self-folding origami-like inflatable structure. Whether airbags or something more exotic like a Lamzac, we’ve all experienced “inflatables” in some form.  Filling something with air could be a useful way of transforming an object—provided you can do so precisely.

Well, what if you could inflate something and have it fold into the three-dimensional shape that you designed?

aeromorph

The world of textile design is constantly being pushed further and integrated with newer technology. Textiles fabrication is having a renaissance of sorts particularly with the rise of “athleisure” and other tech induced fleeces. Textile and packaging have seen a new era.

The researchers and developers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Tangible Media Group are pushing fabric into the future.

Designing an Aeromorph starts with a custom software tool that lets you create a pattern based on the inflated shape you’re trying to achieve. This design is then exported as a file so that it can be manufactured on a standard CNC prototyping machine fit with a custom heat-sealing head, which creates the necessary pockets of air across the material a bit like a sewing machine makes stitches (see video below). 

A custom heat-sealing head  mounted on 3-axis CNC machines are used to precisely fabricate the designed transforming material.

aeromorph

Researchers have introduced a universal bending mechanism that creates programmable shape-changing behaviors with paper, plastics and fabrics. They’ve developed a software tool that generates this bending mechanism for a given geometry, simulates its transformation, and exports the compound geometry as digital fabrication files.

Lead Investigator and PhD Student Jifei Ou says he imagines that Aeromorphs will have big applications in fashion: For example, he mentions flat-pack sneakers that can be pumped full of air to be worn, like a futuristic Reebok Pump, or a backpack that could change its shape and size depending on the content inside.

 ‘AeroForm’ has a lot of untapped potential in the design of interactive wearables technology, children’s toys, packaging and furniture. We can’t wait to see what designers do with it.

You could read more about the project via the team’s white paper.

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