What incredibly functional complex designs could you possibly think up if you only had fabric, sheet metal or wood to work with? More than you could do carpet scraps and hot glue I imagine.

Design can be interesting, but it gets downright inspiring when you see common flat panel materials used in different areas you would never imagine. Here’s three absolutely amazing design ideas that use materials that start flat and proceed to make your mouth gape open.

BMW Cloth Concept Car GINA
BMW’s newest concept car on display at the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany uses a lightweight and extremely durable, yet flexible cloth skin that covers the solid frame. It uses hydraulic actuators to actually shift the shape of the car’s body depending on speed, weather and light conditions. This is a fraction of the cost and the weight for typical plastic or sheet metal bodies.

Fox, AutoBlog

When I saw this I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Tessilion is a project by Skylar Tibbits to bring complex shapes into easily constructible structures that can be used for anything from seating to building facades. The flat panel tessellations are derived from complex shapes, tested, cut with a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, and put together with good ol’ nuts and bolts. Check out the site for a very comprehensive case study of the project.

Tessilion Via Wired

Light Modulator
This is similar to the above, but scaled down a bit and seems more doable with what you have on hand. All it uses is 1.5mm birch plywood and wingnuts. The shapes are also cut on a CNC machine.

Light Modulator Original from Richard Sweeney


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.