New ‘morphing’ structures have multiple applications

New ‘morphing’ structures have multiple applications

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have developed a range of unique, shape-changing structures, which can be used as roll-up display screens (such as laptop screens), re-usable packaging, roll-up keyboards and self-erecting, temporary habitats.

These structures, also known as 'morphing' structures, afford multiple configurations without the need of complex parts or sophisticated manufacturing. Dr Keith Seffen, from the Department of Engineering, has developed the structures and is currently exploring various applications for their ingenious behaviour with co-worker Dr Simon Guest and graduate student Alex Norman.

Dr Seffen said, "They offer substantial shape-changing capabilities whilst preserving structural integrity. They are simply made and their operation does not rely upon advanced materials. They afford compact, inexpensive solutions for multifunctional devices, which are required to be lightweight, stiff, but foldable on demand."

By using an ordinary sheet of metal, Dr Seffen can produce structures with no moving parts but which can be configured between at least two distinct, self-locking and stable forms. For example, an A5-sized flat screen can be snapped into the shape of a tube for compact carriage in a briefcase or pocket (please see attached photo).

The operation does not require hinges, latches or locks, and without these extra parts, production times and costs are reduced compared to traditional folding structures.

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