Manufacturing & Prototyping

3D Material Folds, Bends, and Shrinks on its Own

Harvard University researchers introduce 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. The structure is inspired by an origami technique called snapology and is made from extruded cubes with 24 faces and 36 edges. The research team demonstrated 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. The structural system could have applications in dynamic architecture like portable shelters, adaptive building facades, and retractable roofs.