CAMBRIDGE, MA– A research team at MIT is developing programmable wood panels capable of assembling themselves into furniture pieces and other 3D structures.

Led by director Skylar Tibbits, a Research Scientist in MIT's Department of Architecture, the Self-Assembly Lab aims to re-imagine construction, manufacturing, product assembly and performance through programmable material technologies.

The wood panels developed by Tibbits and the research team, in partnership with Autodesk, are created with a compound of specialized plastic filaments and wood fibers, and arranged into specific patterns with a fused-deposition printer similar to a MakerBot.

When the panels absorb moisture and the wood fibers expand, the printed patterns direct their movements.

Tibbits says the self-assembly phenomenon can be utilized for self-constructing and manufacturing systems at nearly every scale.

“If we look at construction and manufacturing, there's major inefficiencies, energy consumption and excessive labor techniques,” Tibbits explained while presenting at a TED conference in February 2013.

The Self-Assembly research team plans to enable breakthroughs in applications such as software, manufacturing, infrastructure, construction and space exploration.

WIRED suggests the design could revolutionize flat-pack furniture, sparing consumers from Allen wrench related frustration.

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