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.
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.