Finalist 2020

Reflex: Dynamic Materials Study

Benjamin Fraser

The movement of the material is organic and reactive, making the vehicle feel more animal than machine.

Reflex is an exploration of how we can create materials and surfaces that move like we do. By cutting a pattern into a material we can transform it into something that can stretch and bend however we choose.

To demonstrate this, Reflex materials were applied to a future automotive interior IP concept, incorporating HVAC and interior lighting functionality. By actuating the surface, the Reflex pattern opens and closes, controlling the flow of air and the output of light. The movement of the material is organic and reactive, making the vehicle feel more animal than machine.

Design Excellence

Reflex is the combination of a wide range of design fields, culminated into a refined design concept and demonstrated in a working prototype executed to a high level of detail and quality. It is an original, novel and innovative concept, opening the door to new ways in which we interact with the built environment.

Design Impact

The key mechanism for Reflex materials is modifying a material\’s properties and allowing it to perform in ways it previously couldn\’t, and is achieved through sustainable manufacturing methods such as laser cutting. Expanding a material\’s properties allows it to be used in new functions, meaning low-impact materials can be chosen over unsustainable options. A stiff piece of wood can be made to stretch and bend through cutting a reflex pattern into it, and be used in the place of a synthetic polymer in an application where ductility is required.

Design Transformation

Reflex materials only require a laser or water-jet cutter to product, and the working prototype demonstrates this idea can be feasibly executed. It uses existing materials and transforms them into something new, taking advantage simple principals and the inherent mechanical properties of the material. Through this process moving and reactive surfaces can be created, allowing us to interact with objects and a more natural and intuitive way.

Design Innovation

Reflex uses materials and technology in a way that has never been done before. It enables whole a new way of interacting with our products, creating dynamic surfaces that move like we do. The potential for these materials to be applied to concepts far beyond the automotive industry.

Other Key Features

The key to these materials is the pattern design, which balances material, functional and aesthetic requirements.

Several pattern designs and materials were explored during development until I reached one that gave me the desired flex and aesthetic.

The model is a salvaged and modified GMC Acadia IP panel, and is actuated using custom servo actuators controlled by Arduino.

The model has 5 operating modes to demonstrate the material’s potential and includes fans to create real airflow though the pattern.

All aspects of this project were completed by me, requiring skills from engineering, industrial and graphic design fields.

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