A team of Harvard researchers have recently designed a new self-actuated material that is tunable for different architectures – or in other words, a material that can flatpack a design and pop it back into its 3D form when needed.

The thin-walled three-dimensional structures – which can withstand the weight of an elephant when folded flat – can be used to make foldable and reprogrammable objects of arbitrary architecture, whose shape, volume and stiffness can be altered and continuously tuned and controlled.

Inspired by an origami technique called snapology, the structure is made from extruded cubes with 24 faces and 36 edges. Each of these cubes can be folded along their edge to change shape into the desired form – not unlike traditional hinges.

01Snapology Origami”

Additionally, the researchers embedded programmable pneumatic actuators that allowed them to further control the shape and size of the structure without the need for external input:


Says James Weaver, Senior Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University:

“The opportunities to move all of the control systems onboard combined with new actuation systems already being developed for similar origami-like structures really opens up the design space for these easily deployable transformable structures. This structural system has fascinating implications for dynamic architecture including portable shelters, adaptive building facades, and retractable roofs,” said Hoberman. “Whereas current approaches to these applications rely on standard mechanics, this technology offers unique advantages such as how it integrates surface and structure, its inherent simplicity of manufacture, and its ability to fold flat.” 


Find out more over at TechXplore.


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.