Scientists Create Pop Up, 3D Printed Objects

First Posted: Jan 29, 2016 02:05 PM EST

Imagine if you could create any object out of a flat sheet of paper. Now, scientists may have made that possible by characterizing the fundamental origami fold.

The folding pattern itself is known as the Miura-ori. This is a periodic way to tile the plane using the simplest mountain-valley fold in origami. It was used as a decorative item in clothing at least as long ago as the 15th century. A folded Miura, in fact, can be packed into a flat, compact shape and unfolded in one continuous motion, making it ideal for packing rigid structures like solar panels. It also occurs in nature in a variety of situations, such as in insect wings and certain leaves.

In this latest study, the researchers wanted to see if the folding pattern serve as a template for more complicated shapes, such as saddles, spheres, cylinders and other things. In this case, the scientists found an incredible amount of flexibility hidden within the geometry of this folding pattern.

In this case, the researchers are interested in this pattern because it could be used to create collapsible objects in the future. It could help with space-bound payloads and other objects.

The researchers developed an algorithm that can create certain shapes using the Miura-ori fold, repeated with small variations. The program actually lays out the folds needed to create the design, which can then be laser printed for folding. While the shapes are limited currently, the researchers are looking into extending the program's repertoire.

"Essentially, we would like to be able to tailor any shape by using an appropriate folding patterns," said L. Mahadevan, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Starting with the basic mountain-valley fold, our algorithm determines how to vary it by gently tweaking it from one location to the other to make a vase, a hat, a saddle, or to stitch them together to make more and more complex structures."

The findings are published in the journal Nature Materials.

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