Shapeshifting inflatables

March 1st, 2017 / By: / Projects

Self inflatables are programmed to fold like Origami on their own into intricate shapes. Photo: Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab.
Self inflatables are programmed to fold like Origami on their own into intricate shapes. Photo: Tangible Media Group / MIT Media Lab.

The concept of inflatables is certainly not new; they’re available in every size, shape and color imaginable. But what is new is a process to create inflatables that can fold themselves into complex shapes.

MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group has introduced aeroMorph, inflatable structures that have the capacity to fold like Origami all on their own. Researchers developed a bending mechanism that creates programmable shape-changing actions and the software tool to make it work. It makes different patterns of seams (like sewn stitches) that create air pockets on a medium such as paper, fabric or plastic. That pattern determines the three-dimensional shape that will inflate.

It works like this: The software tool generates the bending mechanism for a given geometry, simulates its transformation and exports the compound geometry as digital fabrication files. A custom heat-sealing head that can be mounted on three-axis CNC machines fabricates the design onto the material. Once inflated, eachTangible Media Groupis transformed into a fully interactive 3-D structure.

AeroMorph shows promise for a number of applications, including interactive wearables, self-folding packaging, toys, robotics and other products.

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