millIMorph (MIT Media Lab)

Research and development for a fabrication system and applications of creating fluidic chambers and channels at millimeter scale for tangible actuated interfaces.

Qiuyu Lu, Jifei Ou, João Wilbert, André Haben, Haipeng Mi, Hiroshi Ishii

This project presents a design space, a fabrication system and applications of creating fluidic chambers and channels at millimeter scale for tangible actuated interfaces. The ability to design and fabricate millifluidic chambers allows one to create high frequency actuation, sequential control of flows and high resolution design on thin film materials.

Our experiment shows that by creating fluid chambers/channels at millimeter scale, we are able to achieve large folding transformations with small fluid quantities, high material actuation frequencies, and sequential control of actuation. We believe these new features will expand the design space of the existing fluid-driven shape-change materials for HCI.

We propose a four dimensional design space of creating these fluidic chambers, a novel heat sealing system that enables easy and precise millifluidics fabrication, and application demonstrations of the fabricated materials for haptics, ambient devices and robotics. As shape-change materials are increasingly integrated in designing novel interfaces, milliMorph enriches the library of fluid-driven shape-change materials, and demonstrates new design opportunities that is unique at millimeter scale for product and interaction design.


The fabrication process of milliMorph composites can be divided into four steps. The designer creates a digital drawing of the composite structure, then fabricates this structure using a Non-contact Hot Air Sealing (NoHAS) platform and etches circuit (Figure 8,9,10), and finally connects the tube or injects a different liquid medium before closing the seal.

Adding sensing ability to milliMorph composite is crucial for creating interactivity. To avoid negative impact on the deformation performance of the soft milliMorph composite, we hope to create ultra thin sensing circuits directly on the fluid chamber.

Interactive Features

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Using our fabrication methods we were able to print a conductive layer to the thin film and enable sensing through capacitance (step response). We can sense touch and sliding gestures with low latency and high accuracy.


Actuated Mini Robot The rapid oscillation and lightness properties of milliMorph naturally lead to the idea of imitating insect wings. Many insects’ locomotion are fluid-based systems. Inspired by that, we designed a butterfly with flapping wings.

Haptic Gloves With milliMorph, we can make very thin tactile displays that are quite conformable to other types of surfaces. Latex gloves are widely used in chemistry/biology labs.

4D Actuated Flower The flowers have the same chambers on every petal, but the channels connecting the chambers are artfully designed in order to fill the chambers in a certain sequence.

My Role

This project was led by Dr. Qiuyu Lu (Tsinghua University 2MIT Media Lab Beijing, China) and Jifei Ou (Tangible Media Group • Media Lab). I led the efforts to on conceiving and creating applications for the project, R&D to integrate thin film and electronics and programming pneumatic systems. I also participated in data collection, paper writing and film making.

Further Reference

Computer-Human Interaction – Read Academic Paper

Tangible Media Group Project Site