Inflatable 3D Print Technology Makes These Flowers Bloom

3D printed inflatable flower

3D printing technology is advancing quickly. It’s becoming a popular and economical option for creating products ranging from sportswear and fashion gowns to manufacturing prototypes.

Richard Clarkson, a graduate of New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Design, has taken the technology to yet another level with his Blossom project.

Not only are Clarkson’s 3D printed flowers considered the world’s first ever inflatable 3D print, but they are also one of the first 3D print items to use two different materials in their construction.

Using Object’s Digital Materials printer, the Blossom blooms are created with a mixture of Tango Black, a rubbery and flexible material, and Full Cure 720, which is an almost crystal-clear and solid material. Each bloom is created to be unique both in the number of petals per layer, arrangement, size of support, and compositional make-up.

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

The ability to mix these two materials and have almost seamless gradation from one to the other is a technological breakthrough, but Clarkson, about to finish the final semester for his MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York, isn’t necessarily done pushing the boundaries.

“Objet has developed color printing for the Connex machine, and it has upped the number of build materials to three, so there are plans to revisit Blossom as a full color, multi-material print,” Clarkson says. “Now that it seems to have been accepted as the world’s first inflatable print, it would be nice to follow up with a second iteration with the newer technology.”

This seamless, multi-material print technology has the potential to truly revolutionize the way 3D printing is used in manufacturing and design, and Clarkson has his own idea as to how.

“In its current iteration the interaction is relatively primitive, but imagine a responsive environment where a field of blossoms was able to recognize you, to differentiate you from other people and bloom in a specific way as you pass by, or perhaps a non-intrusive way-finding system with blooms able to produce different scents to lead you on a visual and aromatic journey,” Clarkson concludes.

For more from Richard Clarkson, visit his mood-board to get a look at what inspires his creations.

Image courtesy of Richard Clarkson

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