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Innovation Design Engineering (MA/MSc)

Barna Soma Biro

Barna Soma Biro is an innovation design engineer from Budapest, Hungary, with a degree in BSc Biological Sciences from Imperial College London. His current practice primarily focuses on developing innovative solutions by integrating biological mechanisms and functions into the field of design. By transforming and simplifying prototyping and manufacturing practices utilising scientific and technological advancements, he aims to develop solutions that help transition into a more sustainable way of living.

Barna Soma Biro

I am fascinated by the concepts of variation over generations, diversification and optimisation. These are what drew me to learning more about languages by competing in the International Linguistics Olympiad during my high-school years, and to specialising in evolutionary biology during my undergraduate studies. I am currently focusing on incorporating biological systems into the design process, and understanding more about the evolution of artificial objects. More broadly, my design practice revolves around exploiting scientific advancements for creating design solutions allowing for a more sustainable future.

Squishifier is a creative platform for inflatable prototyping. The platform allows creatives to turn their 3D printers into prototyping tools for creating inflatables by sealing together, piercing and cutting through multiple layers of recyclable plastic sheets, such as food packaging materials. By visiting the website, designers can download 3D printable add-ons for their 3D printers. They can also utilise a slicer software to turn their digital geometries into instructions for 3D printers to create inflatables. Finally, a library with detailed settings for different types of plastics as well as snippets of code for various functionalities is also available on the website. Overall, Squishifier enables an explorative approach to form finding through prototyping iteration while utilising waste materials.

The project started with an explorative approach into understanding the various methodologies that could be used to design and build inflatable structures. Biomaterials, such as bacterial cellulose as well as agar bioplastic, were synthesised for structural experimentation. Thermoplastics, such as PVC, were sealed using a high frequency welder, as well as through heat-sealing using an iron or the heated up nozzle of a 3D printer. Finally, thermosets, such as synthetic rubber, were experimented with using a laser cutter for cutting patterns and adhesives for sealing inflatables.

Agar bioplastic
Agar bioplastic experimentsExperiments exploring various compositions and the resulting structural properties of agar-based bioplastic materials.
PVC experiments
Experiments with PVCPVC plastic sheets sealed using a high-frequency welder machine.
Synthetic rubber experiments
Synthetic rubber experimentsLaser cutting and glueing process for creating synthetic rubber inflatable prototypes.

In order to understand the relationship between the 2D patterns of inflatables and the 3D shapes they take up once inflated, a set of structural experiments were conducted. First, a more elastic material, synthetic rubber, was explored for constructing shapes made of single or multiple air bladders. Then less elastic thermoplastics, such as PP and PE, were experimented with to create inflatable prototypes using the heated-up nozzle of a 3D printer.

Synthetic rubber prototypes
Synthetic rubber structuresExamples of inflatable structures made using synthetic rubber.
3D printer setup
3D printer setupSecuring metallised film to the 3D printer bed for cutting and sealing using the heated-up 3D printer nozzle.
Plastic sheet cutting
Plastic sheet cuttingThe heated up 3D printer nozzle in the process of sealing and cutting multiple layers of metallised film for inflatable prototyping.
Metallised film prototypes
Metallised film structuresStructures made out of metallised film using a 3D printer for sealing, cutting and piercing layers of plastic sheets.

Once a reliable workflow of translating digital geometries into inflatable structures was developed using thermoplastics, such as PP and PE, and a hot 3D printer nozzle for cutting, piercing and sealing layers of plastic sheets together, a creative platform was designed. The platform is a website that provides creatives instructions and tools for inflatable prototyping, such as a library for appropriate settings, snippets of code for different functions, a slicer software as well as 3D printable add-ons. These add-ons can be used to secure layers of plastic sheets to the 3D printer bed as well as to lay new layers of plastic sheets onto the 3D printer bed through an automated mechanism.

Squishifier website
Squishifier websiteThere are 3D printable add-ons available on the website alongside instructions, a slicer software and a library of code snippets allowing creatives to turn their 3D printers into inflatable prototyping machines.
Feeder tool prototypes
Feeder toolDifferent prototypes of the feeder tool that can be used to load and secure new layers of plastic sheets onto the 3D printer bed.
Hook tool prototypes
Hook toolPrototypes of the hook tool that can pull new layers of plastic sheets onto the inflatable structure being built.
New layer mechanism
Adding a new layerAutomated mechanism for adding a new layer of plastic sheets to the prototype using the feeder and the hook tools.