Embedded Movement Responsive Shape-changing Surfaces
Research stage: Initial doctoral stage
The early-stage PhD-Research Embedded Movement explores the potentials of material combination and material interaction for the design of kinetically responsive surface systems. The study consists of two parts. Within the first, the focus lies on the development of methods for reversible motion generation by the precise combination of two materials and their material properties. The second part deals with the careful design of the material behavior and investigates the influence of responsive material movement on the perception of and the interaction with surfaces. It is planned that the study of plural material combinations will form the basis of my research.
My first and current series of experiments within Embedded Movement explores how surfaces made of Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) can be given kinetic potentials. Using 3D printing, the SMA-wires, which shorten when exposed to heat, are placed inside structured shapes made out of TPU. Within this assembly, the TPU, through its material tension, defines the direction of the deformation and forms the reset force. Whereas the wire triggering the shape-change (sensor) and provides the pulling force needed for the movement. The investigation of my two main research areas within this first tested material combination requires different research strategies, whereby design methods, which are used among others in textile-, material-, product- and interaction design, currently prove to be particularly suitable. Indispensable are analog material experiments and artifacts that can be experienced and compared in physical space and with which one can interact directly.
The creation of surface movement through material combinations is only possible by an in-depth exploration of the material properties of the two materials and the following exact assembly to surface structures. Within Embedded Movement, this is made possible through an intensive analog engagement with the materials, CAD/CAM strategies, an iterative workflow and last but not least (in this first series of experiments) due to many years of hands-on experience with shape memory alloys. Series of experiments start with the three-dimensional, CAD-based sketching of a shape with integration potentials for SMA. Through the printing process and the insertion of the SMA, the digital shape becomes an analog one, which can be experienced in its movement. The observation of this material sample allows me to define parameters that influence the deformation. Repeating this process enables me to understand the physical and geometric principles that influence the shape change. Within this research process movements are not digitally simulated in advance and material forces are not calculated. As a result, this open-ended, explorative approach also leads to unexpected results.
In addition to the direct observation of the findings, video recordings in a strict setting (same view, activation length, etc.) of the results have proven to be an important tool to define the design parameters of the movement. By superimposing video recordings, the samples can be compared exactly in terms of their transformation and the repeatability of movements as well as the possible movement decrease in case of multiple activation can be tested in this way.
Based on this motion catalog, my second focus lies on the behavior of these materials and surfaces. The question of how the character of a movement and reaction patterns of a surface influence our perception of and the relationship to a surfaces/material, guides my research. Standing at the very beginning of my doctoral research, it is currently qualitative observations of human-material interaction alternating with physical prototyping that inform my research. Here, in contrast to the first part of the study, attention is shifted from the two states of a shape changing surface to the in-between motion and the design of interaction possibilities.
Of the samples that have been designed so far, the ones that seem most interesting to me in terms of material behavior, perception and interaction are those that seem to be organic in their movement and close to the living. To understand this, I am currently looking at existing transforming surfaces in the animal and plant world. Not in order to copy the found examples and their movement mechanisms directly, but to derive design principles that allow to create analogous movement and interaction possibilities.