No Hands Origami

ancient craft meets electrical engineering

Robert Wood, an associate professor at Harvard University, and Daniela Rus, a professor at MIT, have developed a “programmable matter” sheet with specific points that react to electrical heat. When activated, the sheet folds itself along defined crease lines to create an origami shape. CLICK HERE to watch a video that demonstrates the sheet folding into a boat and an airplane.

The embedded hinges in the sheet are made from Nitinol, a memory alloy of titanium and nickel which allows the material to return to its original unfolded state. The 0.5 millimeter sheet is made from fiberglass with silicone rubber edges. In the center of each panel is a magnet which secures the final shape after it has folded.

In an article on Nature News, Phillip Ball writes about the next step in improving this technology.

To enable a given sheet to fold into any of its allowed configurations without requiring computer control of the hinge-heating process, the team intends to develop removable ‘stickers’ containing the circuitry specific to a particular folded shape. Stuck on top of the sheet, these stickers will fold the sheet in the desired way at the flick of a switch.

Ball also captures the enthusiasm of designer Tine De Ruysser who says, “This material would have great possibilities within the world of textiles, art and design — I’d like to get my hands on it!”

Check out the comments over at Gizmodo for more ideas on the potential of self-folding materials and flippant video clips of Donald Rumsfeld and Optimus Prime.

via Nature News

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