3D Printing

1st 3D Printed Inflatable Flower is More than just a Gimmick

The limits of what 3D printing can do are constantly being tested, and nothing illustrates that better than designer Richard Clarkson’s Seamless Blossom. What may look like a simple interactive art installation is in actuality a demonstration of the growing capabilities of modern 3D printing.

blossom 3D Printed  Flower top

The Seamless Blossom installation consists of a simple white box with striking black flowers ‘growing’ out of the lighted plexiglass tabletop. When white plungers on the side of the table are pressed or squeezed, the flexible plastic blossom petals open, revealing colourful yet firm resin centres.

blossom 3D Printed flower 3D Printing

Other than the light underneath, there are no electronics or mechanical moving parts of any kind in the installation. Clarkson explains how and why he made Blossom in the following video:

“The flower came about as the idea of trying to create this organic form out of this totally nonorganic process and material,” Said Clarkson “Basically it’s a curved hollow chamber with flexible rubber, as you inflate it, it creates a gap of air which pushes against the other layer. It then forces itself outward and almost looks like a petal.”

cad blossom 3D flower 3D Printing

Lovely on it’s own, Blossom becomes far more interesting when you discover that each flower is from a single print. Both the rubber-like inflatable outer petals and the solid firm centre came from the same machine at the same time. Clarkson was able to design the object in SolidWorks in such a way that both materials, the firm resin and the flexible rubber-like plastic, could be printed and even mixed together, seamlessly creating unique and movable flowers with different levels of rigidity and flexibility.

blossom 3D Printed  Flower

The flower itself consists of the firm centre blossom with a small chamber under it, the blossom and the bottom of the object are connected by the rubbery ‘petals’ that have a hollow center, not unlike an empty balloon. When filled with air, they expand, pushing themselves outward as a real flower would when it blooms. The petals contain less and less of the harder resin material as they get further from the centre, allowing them to retain their natural shape while they expand.

This Blossom is a true hybrid of two different printing materials and perfecting the process is really going to change the way that 3D printing is used in manufacturing and design. Being able to cheaply and seamlessly combine multiple printing materials is going to allow us to create things that we can’t even do now using traditional manufacturing techniques.

Go check out Richard Clarkson’s blog and learn more about Blossom and check out all of his other great designs.