Manufacturers across medical, space, aviation, military, and automotive industries could use the technology to build complex machines that integrate with surfaces to be very compact, but can deploy to do complex tasks.
These “developable mechanisms” are built into the exterior of a structure without taking up any actual space below the surface. They can take on 3D shapes from flat conformations without tearing or stretching, like a sheet of paper or metal. They reside in a curved surface and can transform or morph when deployed to serve unique functions. When not in use, they seamlessly fold back into the surface of the structure. These devices evolved from origami-based engineering and are made possible by aligning hinge axes with developable surface ruling lines to enable mobility. Because rigid-link motion depends on the relative orientation of hinge axes and not link geometry, links can take the shape of the corresponding developable surface.
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
There are a number of potential applications for the new technology. The origami-based engineering technology has already been incorporated into solar arrays for NASA and bulletproof vests for police officers.
The mechanisms can be applied to surgical instruments that can cut materials and deploy lights simultaneously during minimally invasive surgery; airplane storage components that could deploy from the inner surface of the fuselage and be completely out of the way when not in use; quad-rotor drones that have adjustable wing spans for fitting in tight spaces; and interplanetary rovers with wheels that could deploy claws for rock crawling.