The Future of Engineering
Origami is a terminology that pertains to folding practices. However, it is closely associated with the Japanese culture, its origins going back to the late 17th century during the Edo period. Today, it is still an interesting art form using origami paper, but principles of origami are also used in packaging and other engineering applications.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have merged the art of origami with 3D printing technology, creating a one-step approach to fabricating complex origami structures that are lightweight, expandable, and strong with applications in everything from biomedical devices to space exploration equipment. Creating such structures has involved multiple steps, using more than one material, and assembling together smaller parts.
Digital Light Processing
An integrated system for manufacturing complex origami has tremendous potential applications, like in self-assembling robots, mirrors and solar panels in space, heart stents, retinal implants and more. In fact, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta became the first university in the country to offer a course on origami engineering. The researchers used a relatively new kind of 3D printing called Digital Light Processing (DLP) to create groundbreaking origami structures that are not only capable of holding significant weight but can also be folded and refolded repeatedly. The structures are made of zippered tubes, composed of one plastic material (a polymer) and do not have to be assembled.
The researchers first developed a new resin that is very strong when cured. It is not only soft but can also be folded hundreds of times without breaking. There were tiny hinges, vital to the structure, which are along the creases where the origami folds. They are made of a thinner layer of resin than the larger panels of which they are part, and that makes them foldable.
The team created several origami structures ranging from individual origami cells of zippered tubes to a complex bridge composed of many zippered tubes. All were tested and showed they can carry about 100 times the weight of the origami structure and don’t break with repeated folding.
After this development, among other things, the research team is working to make the printing even easier while also exploring ways to print materials with different properties.
Working Towards Better Engineering in Seattle
Your 3D printing company in Seattle is also working to keep abreast of the developments in 3D printing technology. In no time, will we see the technology applied in many facets of engineering.