Automotive

BMW and MIT reveal Liquid 3D Printed Pneumatics for self-assembling car interiors

Skylar Tibbits, who coined the term 4D printing back in 2013, and his team at MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab have released the details of an ongoing collaboration with car manufacturer BMW.

Named Liquid Printed Pneumatics, the project applies the Self-Assembly Lab’s “Rapid Liquid Printing” technique to the development of next generation car interiors, capable of taking on any shape and size.

Liquid Printed Pneumatics from Self-Assembly Lab, MIT on Vimeo.

Rapid Liquid Printing 

Rapid Liquid Printing was introduced by the Self-Assembly Lab through a 2017 collaboration with UK-based furniture and interior design company Steelcase.

Made to challenge the speed, size and materials selection of current 3D printing techniques, Rapid Liquid Printing takes place inside a vat of silicone.

In this vat, a needle-like nozzle injects a continuous stream of liquid ink which when exposed to UV light, cures into a solid.

Afterwards, post-processing of the liquid printed part is relatively easy – it simply needs to be removed from its silicone support vat.

Actuator 3D printed by Rapid Liquid Printing. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab
Actuator 3D printed by Rapid Liquid Printing. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab

Liquid Printed Pneumatics

An extension of the Rapid Liquid Printing method, Liquid Printed Pneumatics are the first 3D printed inflatables that can, to quote the demo video “expand and morph into nearly any shape or function.”

Similar to 4D printed objects, Liquid Printed Pneumatics are programmed by design to take on a desired shape when stimulus is applied. In this case, this stimulus is filling with air.

Printed inflatable bends... Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab
Printed inflatable bends… Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab

By altering the design of each inflatable, the researchers can achieve different levels of flexibility and stiffness as necessary.

At present, Liquid Printed Pneumatics is just a concept, but as cars continue develop and adapt, it is easy to see how such an idea could be applied to future vehicles.

...and stretches. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab
…and stretches. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab

Next generation vehicles

For many, an autonomous vehicle revolution is inevitable. If that does turn out to be true, car interiors will be much more versatile spaces than they are now.

In some concepts, cars will become more like “mobile living spaces.”

The Self-Assembly Lab’s inflatables in particular could help improve passenger comfort, or be used to redesign airbags.

Through 4 November 2018 the Liquid Printed Pneumatics project will be on display in the U.K. at the V&A Museum as part of The Future Starts Here exhibition.

3D printed pneumatic inflates from cube shape to a sphere. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab
3D printed pneumatic inflates from cube shape to a sphere. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab

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Featured image shows Liquid Printed Pneumatics. Photo via MIT Self-Assembly Lab

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