Jun 16, 2017 07:12 AM EDT
A group of researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology has found a way to use 3D printers to create objects capable of "expanding dramatically".
Science Daily reported that the experts hope that someday, the "shape shifter" may become handy in space missions and biomedical devices. The new object features tensegrity, a structural system of floating rods in compression and cables in nonstop tension. Experts at Georgia Institute of Technology fabricated the rods from shape memory polymers that unfold when heated.
Glaucio Paulino, a professor at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said in earlier interviews that tensegrity structures are "extremely lightweight" while also being "very strong". He added that this is the main reason why a lot of companies want to study the use of tensegrity structures for outer space exploration. Basically, their goal is to deploy a large object that initially takes up little space.
Per Digital Journal, the Georgia Institute of Technology researchers designed the struts to be hollow with a narrow opening that runs the length of the tube to be temporarily folded flat. all of the struts have connection points on each end to merge to a network of elastic cables. These elastic cables are also made with 3-D printers.
Upon heating the struts for up to 65 degrees Celsius, the experts could partially flatten and fold them into a "W" shape. The cooled off structure then retain the temporary figure. When all of the cables are already attached, the objects can be reheated to initiate the transformation into tensegrity structures.
A major component of making 3D printed objects that transform into tensegrity structures was controlling the rate and sequence of expansion. For one, the shape memory polymers permit the researchers to fine-tune how fast each strut expands. They do this by adjusting the temperature in which the expansion occurs.
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