Programmable Material


In our technologically advanced society, there are always new innovative material that can be used in the design field such as architecture, product design, and apparel design.  One thing, however, that could be a major game changer in design is materials that are programmable.  Programmable materials will be the future of architecture just because of the sheer level of innovation that is required to make a programmable material in the first place, and because there are many functionalities that come with it as opposed to traditional materials.

There are many programmable materials that are listed such as programmable carbon fiber, programmable wood, and programmable textiles.  The ones that will be the main focus of this post will be carbon fiber and wood, because those are the main two materials that can be applied towards architecture.  The idea of these new materials were to turn a non-innovative or traditional material into an innovative material with high manipulability.  With modern day architecture turning towards less traditional materials, it is very important that the new materials are highly versatile and are able to do exactly what the architect and client wants, which is not possible with traditional materials such as brick or regular wood.

“Carbon fiber is traditionally characterized by high stiffness, tensile strength, and low weight, making it advantageous for many industrial applications. We have programmed carbon fiber to transform autonomously by printing active material on fully cured flexible carbon fiber and applying heat as an activator” (Self-Assembly Lab).  The ability to change traditional characteristics of materials is crucial for the evolution of architecture.  Being able to program wood to bend in whichever way one pleases is a big step towards many other materials becoming programmable.

Source: “Programmable Material”




One comment

  1. ktowberman

    I think this is a great article. One way I could see this programmable material coming into play would be in stuctural uses. You stated above that the carbon fiber was heat activated, so perhaps you could place a mesh around a structure that, when warm in the summer months, expands to allow the free flow of air and wind through the structure, where as in the winter, it would constrict to hold in the hot air and insulate from the cold.

    I am very interested in modern design in architecture, so to me, I could also see this used in a sort of “adaptive facade” or part of a facade. The example that come to mind for me would be in a sort of adaptive material that acts like blinds in a window, but one that autonomously goes up and down based on how it is being hit by the sun.

    And for those of us that like to think way out in the future, his material could be used to create the portal—type doors that can be seen in many futuristic movies. That is, no actual door, but a material that folds up on its self when a button is pressed, and unfolds when the button is released.

    One issue I can see though is that so far, the material isn’t really “programmable”. It has only two shapes it can be, so it’s applications in mass architecture is probably still limited.

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