A computational design tool created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology lets you fold a piece of metal or plastic into a “complex 3D shape” like a mask or even a shoe.
“We’re taking a flat piece of material and giving it the tendency, or even the desire, to bend into a certain 3-D shape,” said Keenan Crane, part of the Carnegie Mellon team.
By making hexagonal cuts into flat materials the team is able to let the pieces expand uniformly allowing them to create, say, a sphere from a rigid piece of plastic.
Origami-style techniques are already in use in deep space solar arrays and arterial stents. However this technique lets fully 3D objects to spring forth from a piece of plastic.
This means you can make something like a wild 3D dress out of metal or a car piece out of plastic with a few well-placed cuts. Write the researchers:
The next step, say the researchers, is to create a way to map 3D objects for easy printing and to ensure that objects pop into place automatically when folded slightly.