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The next cutting-edge fabrication technology is . . . zippers?

Zippables. Even the name is great.

The next cutting-edge fabrication technology is . . . zippers?
[Image: IGL]

Push aside that sewing machine. Drop the hex wrench. Hailing from the Interactive Geometry Lab at ETH Zurich, Zippables are plush objects that you can assemble simply by zipping them up.

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To create a Zippable, researchers first draw whatever 3D shape they like in a modeling program. Then they apply a special algorithm that can break that shape into a long, spiraling line that looks a lot like a snail shell. With that line in place, the 3D shape can be unfurled into a spindly 2D form, and a laser cutter can cut out that form from one solid piece of fabric. The final step? With a simple physical template, a manufacturer can easily attach the 2D fabric shape to a very, very long zipper.

[Image: IGL]

Of course, none of that really matters to you, the end consumer. All that matters is that you can receive a simple, flat-pack box and within a few moments, you can zip together an entire soft sculpture. It’s a build process that looks fun instead of infuriating; imagine all the stocking stuffer toys that could be produced with such a technique. But while Zippables look inherently giftable, researchers believe their best use might be one you never see–to easily customize and install the cladding that wraps around oil and gas pipes.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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