'Peel-and-Go' 3D-Printed Structures Fold Themselves Up
A team of researchers from MIT and Umass Amherst have designed 3D-printed structures that can fold themselves up without any outside stimulus, and the folding begins the instant it is peeled off the printing platform. In the short term, the technique could enable the custom manufacture of sensors, displays, or antennas whose functionality depends on their 3Dl shape. Longer term, the researchers envision the possibility of printable robots. One of the big advantages of devices that self-fold without any outside stimulus, the researchers say, is that they can involve a wider range of materials and more delicate structures. "If you want to add printed electronics, you're generally going to be using some organic materials, because a majority of printed electronics rely on them," says MIT graduate student Subramanian Sundaram. "These materials are often very, very sensitive to moisture and temperature. So if you have these electronics and parts, and you want to initiate folds in them, you wouldn't want to dunk them in water or heat them, because then your electronics are going to degrade."