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Recent advances in 3D printing now allow the simultaneous deposition of different build materials in a single print. In a similar way to nature, materials can be distributed seamlessly within objects for structural and functional advantage. “Blossom” explores the blending of two materials with varying physical properties transitioning from flexible to rigid. The variation offers an opportunity to generate complex forms and dynamic structures that are impossible to make by any other means.

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The research into applications of these Digital Materials™ has resulted in what is believed to be the world’s first inflatable 3D print. Forcing air into the cavities of the print causes it to ‘bloom’ and thereby reveal the complexity of its physical structure.

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The digital materials really are amazing, it’s a tremendous technological leap to be able to mix different proportions of two different materials at the point of print. But more than that to be able to mix them in an almost seamless gradation from one to the other. Blossom specifically focused on two materials in particular; Tango Black (a rubbery, flexible material) & Full Cure 720 (an almost crystal-clear, solid material).

Each bloom was created in Solidworks to be unique both in terms of its actual design (number of petals per layer & arrangement and size of support) and its compositional material make up.

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While the sections with a higher percentage of Full Cure 720 provide structure and substructure it is the curved chambers of the more flexible material that inflate and create the blooming effect. As air is gently pumped into the chamber it causes the inside of the petal to push against the outside of the petal front of it. As each petal pushes on the one in front of it, the bloom collectively blossoms.

The project had its debut opening during the 2012 DeSFoRM conference held at Victoria University of Wellington. With keynote speaker Philip Beesley being intrigued by the project. Since then its also been shown at the ACADIA conference in Canada.

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Working with new materials and new material opportunities is always going to be challenging. There were several iterations where different mixtures proved very unsuccessful and the model failed. But thats what’s so amazing about working with new technology. As a designer you are able to push it to its very limits, then define those limits for the others that follow you. So that they can later push your limits beyond what you had ever imagined.

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