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An origami-inspired model for reconfigurable materials

Metamaterials — materials whose function is determined by structure, not composition — have been designed to bend light and sound, transform from soft to stiff, and even dampen seismic waves from earthquakes. But each of these functions requires a unique mechanical structure, making these materials great for specific tasks, but difficult to implement broadly.

But what if a material could contain within its structure, multiple functions and easily and autonomously switch between them?

Enter a team of Harvard researchers who, inspired by snapology origami, collaborated with designers and mathematicians to create a “blueprint or DNA” for designing reconfigurable material structures. From Harvard.edu:

Once a specific design was selected, the team constructed working prototypes of each 3D metamaterial both using laser-cut cardboard and double-sided tape, and multimaterial 3D printing. Like origami, the resulting structure can be folded along their edges to change shape…

“This framework is like a toolkit to build reconfigurable materials,” said [Chuck] Hoberman. “These building blocks and design space are incredibly rich and we’ve only begun to explore all the things you can build with them.”

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Their work can be applied to both nanoscale solutions and large-scale options in engineering of all kinds — mechanical, structural, aerospace, biomedical, solar, wind, robotic, etc — architecture, materials science, and many more.

And of course, Chuck Hoberman is well-known as an accidental toy maker. His Hoberman Switch Pitch and Hoberman Sphere are staples in toy stores and science museum gift shops.

Next: This mini origami robot self-folds, performs tasks, & can be dissolved, 3D-printed Metamaterial Mechanisms, and Self-Folding Crawler: A Transformer-style Origami Robot.

via Nature.

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