hand and feathers


Structural Textiles: Adaptable form and surface
Royal College of Art, London, UK, 2005-2011

This design research, funded by the AHRC, EPSRC and the Textile Institute, develops and combines textile and non-textile production processes to create adaptable, self-supporting, folding, 3-D textile structures with shape-memory and customisable material properties. These textiles have application across many disciplines including architecture, engineering, medicine, product and fashion at micro and macro scales.

Many origami-folded textile structures are a two-part construction consisting of a metal framework or 'mesh' covered by a textile membrane. The creation of a self-supporting textile that integrates the 'mesh' and the 'membrane' into a single, streamlined system eliminates any risk of the misalignment or disconnection presented by the two-part structure and potentially confers an improved aesthetic to the resultant material.

The research also addresses limitations to current industrial textile pleating techniques. Machine made pleats can only create very simple designs. Complex designs have to be hand moulded in cardboard layers, which limits the piece size to 2m squared. Using two main techniques, silk-screen printing and lamination, large expanses of textiles can be folded in complex designs without cardboard moulds. Calculated adjustment of material thickness and rigidity creates small and large-scale pieces that are self-supporting without an external supporting framework. Limiting materials in the composite textiles to polyester gives shape-memory properties whilst creating a more easily recyclable mono-material. Surface treatments are customisable to improve functionality e.g. fire retardance, noise reduction, water repellence. Laminated pieces can be made as a modular construction for easy adaptation of form, allowing user customisation and reconfiguration that potentially increases useful life of product.