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The Kid Should See This

What can you make with CalTech’s smart chain mail?

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Inspired by medieval chain mail, this 3D printed smart fabric can be both soft and foldable or rigid and load-bearing. Its interlinked components—”from linking rings to linking cubes to linking octahedrons (which resemble two pyramids connected at the base)”—were designed by engineers at the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to be both lightweight and protective depending on its need. From CalTech

“An example from popular culture would be Batman’s cape from the 2005 movie Batman Begins, which is generally flexible but can be made rigid at will when the Caped Crusader needs it as a gliding surface.”

Other potential designs include exoskeletons, adaptive casts for injuries, or deployable bridges that are light for transport yet strong and sturdy when installed.

caltech chainmail
CalTech Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics Professor Chiara Daraio shares more information about these interlocking octahedral particles with tunable mechanical properties in the Nature video above:

“If you think about coffee grains, when they are unpacked and loose, coffee grains, they can be poured like a liquid. However, coffee grains, when you buy them, sometimes they’re vacuum packed, and when they’re packed, they’re really stiff and rigid like a brick…”

load-bearing compressed particles
And from the video narration:

“Chiara’s team designed a series of complex 3D particles that could be made to interlock, connecting at multiple points. The idea is that the more contact there is between them, the more solidly they can jam together. When compressed in a vacuum bag, the material becomes stiff enough to support over a kilogram of weight. The precise properties of this kind of material could be tailored to specific applications.”

testing different particle shapes
Watch these handpicked related videos next:
• The Sphere-Packing Problem
• Engineering with Origami
• 3D-printed structures that shape-shift with magnetic microparticles
• Exploring Space with Shape-Shifting Tensegrity Robots
• OmniFibers: Soft robotic fabric that can sense, react to, and model human movement

Bonus: Symmetry, an Eames animated short for the 1961 Mathematica exhibition.

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