Innovation That Matters

Metamaterials allow researchers to design the interior of objects

Fashion & Beauty

Researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute’s Human Computer Interaction Lab have created door latches and pliers from one piece of 3D printed silicone with no need for any extra bolts, screws or fixings.

Material technology has made incredible advancements. One of the more notable recent examples covered by Springwise are this 3D printing pen that uses plastic bottles and bags a ‘ink’. Now the Hasso Plattner Institute’s Human Computer Interaction Lab has designed a system of 3D printing that creates objects that are able to move and distort, despite being made from one piece.

The innovation uses a new technology called metamaterial, a type of material defined not by its substance but by its internal structure. The structure is made up of a series of grids formed in different patterns which result in different levels of rigidity. As in the door latch in the video, the more flexible sections can shear along an edge. This process allows them to move more freely but also enables them to pull or push adjacent, more rigid sections of the grid structure. Hasso Plattner Institute researcher Patrick Baudisch explains the benefit of the technology, “The ultimate vision is to design the inside of objects” giving them “unexpected functionality.” The fact that the objects can be made from one piece without screw, bolts or other fixings means construction is simpler. No assembly of fiddly pieces is needed.

The Hasso Plattner Institute has also created a supporting custom editing software which allows users to predict how the mechanism will react when force is applied to certain areas. So far, researchers working on the project have used flexible silicone; however, it could theoretically be made from any elastic material that can withstand high levels of pressure without breaking. Spring steel is cited as ideal but is as yet not possible to fabricate using 3D printing.

The material has been used so far to make door latch and a pair of pliers. How else could this technology be used?

Email: patrick.baudisch(at)


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