Technologies using stretchable materials are increasingly important. Yet, in general, it is not possible to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons. A method was developed that allows the calculated transformation of 2D stretchable surfaces into targeted 3D shapes.
The method is used to design flat (2D) sheets of polymer composites that can be inflated to form a 3D version of a real object, or an object designed in 3D rendering software. Flat sheets of polymer can be inflated to form diverse 3D shapes and textures. These objects were able to be cycled through more than 100 inflation and deflation cycles.
This technique allows complex shapes to be produced from a variety of polymeric materials. Unlike most inflatable structures that are limited to positive curvature and symmetrical shapes, this technique permits positive, negative, and zero curvature areas as well as non-symmetrical shapes.
Applications include soft robotic actuators, configurable clothing, reconfigurable 3D displays, and camouflage.