Shape Shifters | Harvard University

3-D foldable, tunable, and self-actuated material 

Remember playing origami? I surely do. A team at Harvard University inspired by an origami technique called snapology developed a shape-shifting structure. Truly, inspiration can be anything and come anytime. “We’ve designed a 3-D, 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,”

-Johannes T.B. Overvelde, a graduate student in Bertoldi’s lab and first author of the paper.

The structure developed is so versatile that it not only shifts shapes, or folds but also is tunable to change the size, volume, and shape. The model structure promises to even withhold heavy loads without any damage. ” This structural system has fascinating implications for dynamic architecture including portable shelters, adaptive building facades, and retractable roofs,”

– Chuck Hoberman, Graduate School of Design.

The foldable and re-programmable material is structured into extruded cubes with 24 faces and 26 edges and just like in an origami technique the edges fold to change shape. 64 of these individual extruded cubes were connected, which furthermore helped in understanding how the material deforms and how the stiffness of the material can be controlled. “This research demonstrates a new class of foldable materials that is also completely scalable. It works from the nanoscale to the meter-scale and could be used to make anything from surgical stents to portable pop-up domes for disaster relief.

-Johannes T.B. OverveldeIt

It is obvious that lately, technology is gradually shifting towards the concerned parts of our society. One can only hope that many lives could be saved one day in case of disaster-prone areas if we can program and optimize the structure precisely on the site’s needs. Harvard University Team: Johannes T.B. Overvelde, Katia Bertoldi, James Weaver, Chuck Hoberman

by: Sanjana Malhotra
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