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Research Papers

Soft Origami: Classification, Constraint, and Actuation of Highly Compliant Origami Structures

[+] Author and Article Information
Charles M. Wheeler

Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
35-135,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: wheelerc@mit.edu

Martin L. Culpepper

Fellow ASME
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
35-237,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: culpepper@mit.edu

Manuscript received September 14, 2015; final manuscript received December 17, 2015; published online May 4, 2016. Assoc. Editor: James Schmiedeler.

J. Mechanisms Robotics 8(5), 051012 (May 04, 2016) (7 pages) Paper No: JMR-15-1262; doi: 10.1115/1.4032472 History: Received September 14, 2015; Revised December 17, 2015

Herein, we discuss the folding of highly compliant origami structures—“Soft Origami.” There are benefits to be had in folding compliant sheets (which cannot self-guide their motion) rather than conventional rigid origami. Example applications include scaffolds for artificial tissue generation and foldable substrates for flexible electronic assemblies. Highly compliant origami has not been contemplated by existing theory, which treats origami structures largely as rigid or semirigid mechanisms with compliant hinges—“mechanism-reliant origami.” We present a quantitative metric—the origami compliance metric (OCM)—that aids in identifying proper modeling of a homogeneous origami structure based upon the compliance regime it falls into (soft, hybrid, or mechanism-reliant). We discuss the unique properties, applications, and design drivers for practical implementation of Soft Origami. We detail a theory of proper constraint by which an ideal soft structure's number of degrees-of-freedom may be approximated as 3n, where n is the number of vertices of the fold pattern. Buckling and sagging behaviors in very compliant structures can be counteracted with the application of tension; we present a method for calculating the tension force required to reduce sagging error below a user-prescribed value. Finally, we introduce a concept for a scalable process in which a few actuators and stretching membranes may be used to simultaneously fold many origami substructures that share common degrees-of-freedom.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Miura-ori lattice machined from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Bending allowed by living hinges, this structure's designed-in mechanism feature.

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Fig. 2

Illustration of ideal Soft Origami sheet, capable of bending to any curvature

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Fig. 3

Model of wide beam exposed to moment loads “M.” The beam exhibits constant curvature along its length

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Fig. 4

Examples of peak curvatures achievable by structures representing each of the three OCM regimes

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Fig. 5

The level-span catenary suspension representation of sagging panel. Note that vertical forces (not pictured here) are also exerted at the endpoints of the span, with total magnitude equivalent to the weight of the span.

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Fig. 6

Sagging ratio as a function of tension ratio

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Fig. 7

6 × 6-panel Miura-ori folding diagram. Dotted lines, solid interal lines, and dots represent valley folds, mountain folds, and vertices, respectively.

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Fig. 8

Membrane-driven folding process by which a Soft Origami sheet may be folded using elastic membranes

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Fig. 9

Preliminary test of the membrane-driven technique. A Soft Origami polyester film is shown passing through an intermediate folding angle.

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