So many 3D printed innovations still leave us shaking our heads in amazement. We are continually wowed not only by the resourcefulness of engineers and makers around the world, but also by the infinite potential their growing body of work demonstrates. And even though the 4D realm has been in the process of being defined for a while now, watching designers take 3D design and production one massive step further never ceases to surprise.
Along with nearly every other major industry today, we have seen a lot of impressive uses for 3D printing within the automotive field—from greater ease in making prototypes and spare parts to fabricating new components to designing lines of cars that are almost entirely 3D printed. Obviously, there are many ways that cars could continue to be improved today, and safety mechanisms are always high on the list for manufacturers as traffic deaths continue to hit unfortunate new highs in the US especially.
BMW, also known for their reliance on 3D printing (and interesting forays such as the refurbishing of Elvis’ lost BMW 507) is now taking on both 3D and 4D concepts for refining details such as the air bag—and man, does this make sense! The BMW Vision Next 100 concept car features many new futuristic details for both the exterior and interior. Employing 4D measures, the team has been able to expand on functionality and performance, as well as looks.
It’s not all about safety and air bags though as the teams working together also wanted to put an emphasis on creating a material that could morph back and forth for multiple uses. Much of this concept came about as Skylar Tibbits, founder of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, visited the BMW facility in Germany and a light bulb went off as he considered each step in how car seats are made for the luxury vehicles: ‘Can we create an element that can be multiple things but made as one object?’
Engineering with soft robotics, the teams have now have been able to create a 4D structure with seven different chambers that can adapt to offer better support for drivers, added comfort, and even the possibility of massages while driving.
The inflatable material is made of silicone and relies on varying air pressure for the adaptation at hand, allowing for different uses as well as shape and firmness. As air pressure changes, the material could be either big and bulky or flat. The 4D material has been in research and development for a couple of years now, progressing as the team focused on being able to liquid print complex air- and water-tight shapes.
The BMW concept car, showing off exactly what liquid printed pneumatics look like, is part of ‘the future starts here’ exhibit, running from May 12th to November 4th in London at the V&A Museum.
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[Source: designboom; Images: BMW and MIT Self-Assembly Lab Images]