BMW and MIT create printed inflatable material

BMW and MIT have announced that they have teamed up to create the first printed inflatable material. The breakthrough was created at the MIT Self-Assembly Laboratory and the material can self-transform, adapt, and morph from one state to another. The material can be customized to any shape or size.

The printed material is made from silicone and can change shape depending on the amount of air pressure in the system. It has pneumatic controls that allow the printed material to transform into a variety of shapes, functions, or stiffness characteristics. BMW sees the material as being useful in vehicle interiors and it might be particularly well suited to seats.

BMW says that the material could lead to cars that have modular uses where front and back seats can be changed on the fly depending on what owners want to do. MIT's breakthrough came when the team figured out how to liquid print air and water-tight inflatable geometries like customized printable balloons. The printing process can produce complex channels and pockets that self-transform.

MIT has a creation using the tech on display that is three dimensional and described as highly dynamic and able to morph form and function. The meter-scale object can transform in a robot-like manner using a pneumatic system with seven independent chambers. Those chambers can create different movement patterns.

MIT says that the matinal could lead to a future with transformable surfaces for adaptive human comfort, cushioning and image performance. There is no indication of when or if this material might come to a retail product.