Sunday, August 2, 2009

Renaissance Fare

One of the more inspiring booths at the show this year was for Material Connexion. They're a resource for designers and corporations to find new and extremely high-tech material solutions for their projects. They maintain an entire library of these materials and their properties. With a subscription to their services, you can get sent out a package four times a year with sort of like swatches of all the brand new stuff that's been discovered or invented. Their experts can match up a problem with a solution, and if there isn't one, they have material scientists who can explore coming up with something new.

Some of this stuff is pretty astounding and if this is any indication of where we're headed, my mind boggles at the things we'll be able to accomplish in the next century. Here's a small sampling of things they introduce. This is Ciba XYMARA Electra:
It's a printer ink for screen printing that has silver particles suspended in it so it conducts electricity. It can be used on paper, dries at room temperature, and it's flexible, so whatever media it's printed on can still bend without it cracking.
It occurred to me that by printing on both sides of the paper, and with some kind of tab connecting one side to the other, one could create far more complex circuitry. I've been saying for years now that not too long from now, laptop computers will literally be the size and thickness of a single sheet of paper. This is clearly bringing us one step closer. It's also one step closer to Desktop Manufacturing, where basically, you just print yourself a portable electronic device onto a piece of paper and go.

This is called IQ-TEX:
It's air-permeable when it's dry, but when it gets wet, it has superabsorbers that expand explosively to make it watertight. Of course I'm often thinking in architectural terms, but one thing that occurred to me is how hot attics get in the summertime, from the blazing sun beating down on the roof. And say you had another layer of breathable film that was tuned to react to a constant interior temperature of 72°F. I think you can figure out where I'm going with that.

Here's another crazy shoe, the Adidas Lone Star designed for Jeremy Wariner:
They make me wish either they weren't spiked or that I was a runner, because they're ridiculously cool. I'd totally wear silver sneakers. The textiles have only ever been used in the automotive or aerospace industries before this, on the bottom are carbon nanotube plates, and if you look closely, they're actually asymmetrical:
It's because on the curves, each foot performs a different function in the run. Adidas spent two years developing them.

Here's a fishing pole:

It's made of a nanofiber composite called Curran that's derived from--ready for this?--carrots, Doc. Not only is it about as Green as you can get, but it's also stronger, lighter, and more sensitive than graphite or fiberglass.

And I never would have expected to show a car in my coverage of the ICFF, but my mouth was hanging open the entire time I was looking at this. It's the BMW Gina concept by Chris Bangle:
Now, that's a real hot looking machine anyway, but...wait for it...

Its body is made out of fabric.

Click that.




It's a polyurethane coated Lycra, which is extremely strong and tear-resistant, stretched over a wire aluminum frame.
Unbelievable. This is another reason why I was looking so seriously into tent architecture some years ago--the project was for a fashion design studio, so it seemed totally appropriate--some of those designs for basic camping are pretty complex and stunning in their geometry, but also awning structures, kite design, pneumatics of course. If this is any indication, I think it shan't be long before high-tech fabrics come along that can be stretched over a tent frame, are as thin and lightweight as silk, as clear as glass, impervious to tearing, totally waterproof, and as insulating as fur.

Yes, I said "shan't."

They certainly are exciting, these times in which we live. It almost seems like a new Renaissance.

©2009, Ryan Witte

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