Scientists have developed flat pack structures that can autonomously assemble into 3D shapes when linked to an electrical current.
Anyone who has wrestled with an IKEA wardrobe knows that flat-packed structures are not the easiest to assemble. Nowadays you can 3D print a whole product, but if you need it to travel compactly, it needs to be able to be flat-packed. Researchers at MIT, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a series of flat objects that can build themselves when they are stimulated with an electrical current.
The structures are made out of shape memory polymers (that have been printed) and have joints that are covered with a conductive coating. When a jolt of electricity runs through, the shape memory polymers begins to go back into its original shape. Printing the shapes and the self-folding means that less labor is involved in creating complicated geometric structures.
The scientists explain in an academic article published in Soft Matter:
Origami-inspired manufacturing can produce complex structures and machines by folding two-dimensional composites into three-dimensional structures.This fabrication technique is potentially less expensive, faster, and easier to transport than more traditional machining methods, including 3-D printing. Its functionality and low cost make it an ideal basis for a new type of printable manufacturing based on two-dimensional fabrication techniques.
Watch the video below to see 2D objects make themselves 3D: