“Can we replace a heavy structure with a thin film?”

Flexible membranes and thin films have a number of useful properties, such as low cost, low space, flexibility and usage.

Replace customary constructions with flexible membranes or thin film

Tapes with a thin film of flexible, pressure sensitive adhesive allow masking and wrapping without the clumsy application of glue.

A thin flexible layer of metal oxide allows information to be stored magnetically on an audio cassette or computer hard drive.

Camera film is made with a thin film of silver oxide, making the coating affordable and flexible.

Isolate an object from its outside environment with flexible membranes or thin films

Heavy lids and packaging can be replaced with thin films, e.g. food packaging, with plastic wrap protecting the food from oxygen and evaporation while allowing it to be inspected by the purchaser.

Thin film inflatable structures can serve as winter covers on tennis courts.

Vapour barrier is applied between walls and insulation in many jurisdictions to prevent rot, mold and conditioned air loss.

Farmers will roll up hay into big bales and package it in thin plastic to keep it dry.


Tautliner trucks rely on stretched tarps to form their sides.  This securely protects cargo while allowing the flexibility to easily access materials in the truck without the need to go through the back doors. This allows items loaded near the cab to be reached without loading the cargo between it and the rear doors.

Tarps’ flexibility allows them to cover any ad hoc shape, protecting construction material to protect it from wind and rain, cars from rain and sun damage, etc.

More examples

As I stumble across real world examples of this Inventive Principle in action I add them here.

Your turn

What problems do you face that this inventive principle could help solve? Have you used this principle before?