Harvard creates three-dimensional actuated scalable snapology-origami-inspired transformable metamaterial

Imagine a house that could fit in a backpack or a wall that could become a window with the flick of a switch.

Harvard researchers have designed a new type of foldable material that is versatile, tunable and self actuated. It can change size, volume and shape; it can fold flat to withstand the weight of an elephant without breaking, and pop right back up to prepare for the next task.

“We’ve designed a three-dimensional, thin-walled structure that can be used to make foldable and reprogrammable objects of arbitrary architecture, whose shape, volume and stiffness can be dramatically altered and continuously tuned and controlled,” said Johannes T. B. Overvelde, graduate student in Bertoldi’s lab and first author of the paper.

The structure is inspired by an origami technique called snapology, and is made from extruded cubes with 24 faces and 36 edges. Like origami, the cube can be folded along its edges to change shape. The team demonstrated, both theoretically and experimentally, that the cube can be deformed into many different shapes by folding certain edges, which act like hinges. The team embedded pneumatic actuators into the structure, which can be programmed to deform specific hinges, changing the cube’s shapes and size, and removing the need for external input.

Snapology Inspired

Analysis of the possible shapes of the extruded cube unit cell.

Fabrication and deformation of a single extruded cube unit cell and the corresponding mechanical metamaterial.

Nature Communications – A three-dimensional actuated origami-inspired transformable metamaterial with multiple degrees of freedom

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