Pi Lab: Programmable Inflatables

Exploring the promising applications of 3D-printed inflatables

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Pi Lab: Programmable Inflatables


2020 — now

Programmable Inflatables investigates how inflatable 3D-printed shapes can trigger innovation in fields like packaging, healthcare and architecture.

Subproject of Pi Lab.

Inflating a 3D-printed object with hot water and a compressor

Photo by Juuke Schoorl

At the basis of Pi Lab: Programmable Inflatables lies Aera Fabrica, a technique that was developed by Roos Meerman of Fillip Studios and has so far been used for artistic purposes.

The technique is a combination of blow moulding, glass blowing and 3D printing. By heating up a 3D-printed PLA balloon, it becomes flexible and can be inflated. Cooling it down solidifies the inflated shape, while reheating it makes it shrink back to its original 3D-printed form.

The technique allows a small 3D printer to print big objects.

Computer model animation of inflating a programmed, 3D-printed shape

In the Aera Fabrica process, the shape is determined before inflating it, which makes it ‘programmable’: we can influence the final outcome.

3D-printed inflated shape from Aera Fabrica and the research group Pi Lab: Programmable Inflatables

A cross-disciplinary research project

In the research group of Pi Lab: Adaptable Auxetics, we are investigating how the technique can be made applicable for industrial applications and innovations in packaging, healthcare and architecture. The research group consists of Ass. Prof. Bas van der Linden (TU/e Mathematics and Computer Science), Sioux Technologies, BASF Forward AM, MakerPoint and students from Fontys Engineering and Design Academy.

Interested in joining the research group of
Pi Lab: Adaptable Auxetics? Contact us.

Read all about our cross-disciplinary research groups on the Pi Lab page.

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