BMW and MIT are planning on a first of its kind collaboration with the aim of producing an inflatable 3D printed material. Both BMW and MIT are looking at a material that can morph from one shape to another automatically. The automobile company hopes to use such research to allow them to build car interiors that can adapt and be far more malleable.
The companies have dubbed the project “liquid printed pneumatics”. Their first object of this type is on display at the V&A Museum in London. Originally, they started work on it in 2016 with the stated goal of pushing the boundaries of material technologies. While the exhibit at the museum is still an early version, it holds a lot of promise.
The silicone printed object on display in London is capable of changing shape depending on the air pressure in the system. Like with most 4D printed objects, it changes shape based on differences in its environment. In this case the pneumatic controls alter the basics of its shape, functions or stiffness.
Applications of Inflatable Adaptive Materials
It’s not surprising that BMW enlisted the help of MIT’s self-assembly lab. Under Skylar Tibbets’ tenure the entire facility is changing the ways in which researchers think about and use 3D printing. They’ve since pioneered various technologies, filed patents and also implemented 4D printing concepts. An adaptive material for the interior of cars definitely sounds like something within their wheelhouse.
This sort of design makes the car more flexible or more stiff depending entirely on the required situation. It’s easy to see why they’d want to make an interior that can alter its characteristics. As a result, the company could produce a car that could reduce car crash fatalities by a wide margin. Aside from safety concerns, it could also be a great way to make interiors more comfortable and adaptable/customisable.
“There is no need to lock the car of the future into any particular shape. Interiors could even take on malleable, modular uses” says Martina Starke, head of BMW Brand Vision and BMW Brand Design at BMW Group.
Currently, it only serves as an exhibit at the V&A museum. Although, in the near future we may see BMW take it into production with shifting interiors. When a company as big as BMW is looking into a technology, it’s not that outlandish to think that it may become the way of the future.