Specifically, the researchers plan to use experiments and computational models to evaluate the folding process in order to develop new multi-functional 3-D structures that can form rapidly while retaining precise control over their shape. Because the patterns will be on 2-D materials, the process should be compatible with high-throughput patterning techniques, such as roll-to-roll patterning used in electronics manufacturing.
Potential applications include the development of unfoldable air foils that could be used for airdrops of humanitarian supplies with greater precision; hands-free assembly of electronics in a “clean” environment; or various packaging and manufacturing processes.
The research team includes Genzer; Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State; Dr. Yong Zhu, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State; Susan Brandeis, Distinguished Professor of Art and Design at NC State; Dr. Alan Russell, of Elon University, who has studied origami for more than 30 years; Emily Beck, of Meredith College; and Dr. Rich Vaia, of the Air Force Research Laboratory. The grant will also support four to five graduate students and post-doctoral research associates.
The research effort builds on earlier research from NC State, which detailed a simple way to convert 2-D patterns into 3-D objects using only light. In that work, the researcher ran pre-stressed plastic sheets through a conventional inkjet printer to print bold black lines on the material. The material was then cut into a desired pattern and placed under an infrared light, such as a heat lamp. Because the bold black lines absorbed more energy than the rest of the material, the plastic contracted – creating a hinge that folded the sheets into 3-D shapes. A video demonstration of the previous work can be seen here.
The grant is being funded through NSF’s Office of Emerging Frontiers
Contacts and sources:
Dr. Jan Genzer
North Carolina State University