Research @ MIT Media Lab | 2016

The project investigates how to make origami structure with inflatables with various materials. We introduce a universal bending mechanism that creates programmable shape-changing behaviors with paper, plastics and fabrics. We developed a software tool that generates this 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 usual 3-axis CNC machines to precisely fabricate the designed transforming material is presented. We envision this technology could be used for designing interactive wearables, toys, and packaging industry.

Publication | UIST 2016| aeroMorph – Heat-sealing Inflatable Shape-change Materials for Interaction Design | Ou, J., Skouras, M., Vlavianos, N., Heibeck, F., Cheng, C., Peters, J., and Ishii, H. | Honorable Mention Award


Mechanism | When a flat airbag, made of a quasi-inextensible material (material with high tensile strength), is inflated, the airbag tends to become spherical, like a balloon. Since the material cannot stretch, the silhouette of the airbag will shrink, implying a compressive deformation of the lateral seams. If we connect such two airbags on one seam, the structure will bend along that seam, since the seam is common to both airbags and cannot duplicate. The seam will continue to curve, and therefore the hinge to bend, until the volume in the inflatable is maximized. The diamond shape hinge serves as the bending angle control.



Design Tool | Our design tool exposes a control interface that allows the user to import a polygonal mesh representing the contours of the airbags and the locations of the seams. The system automatically replaces each internal edge of the mesh with one or several diamond-shaped seams whose dimensions can be specified by the user (height, width, and radius of the round can be controlled). Once the user has finished sizing the seams, s/he can launch the simulation of the inflatable structure.


Machine | We created a large scale robotic sealing platform that allows one to seal a 36″ by 36″ sheet. With a re-designed sealing head and damping mechanism, the platform also allows the user to change the heating head to a knife module to precisely cut out the outer seam of the design



Shape-change Packaging | In packaging industry, people are already using air pouches as a force damping material for shipping. our software simulation/design system can help designers to create inflatables that fold from 2D to a specific shape of 3D. this give us the possibility to fabricate a self-folding cushion, that can automatically folds to perfectly wrap/fit the shipping item. We envision this could further automate the streamline in the factories.

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