Morphing surfaces made of slidable rods

Summary of the technology

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

The Challenge

Shape morphing surfaces and tubes are used in a wide variety of fields. These include biomedical devices (stents, endoscopes, catheters), soft robotics (artificial muscles, grippers, wearable exoskeletons and active textiles), adaptive/organic architecture or deployable structures in aerospace.
All these technologies rely on the straining of the underlying material (e.g. rubber in a pneun which is inherently limited, or on rotations of structural elements (as in pantographs, origami kirigami), which lead to “locking” of the morphing mechanism. Thus, the morphing capacity limited. Furthermore, each morphable surface system is specifically designed for a specific morphing program (e.g. deploy a space antenna from tubular to nearly flat or shorten an artificial muscle by inflating a braid), and hence are not versatile in nature. A key challenge i this field is a balance between deformability and controllability. A very soft rubber is very deformable but not controllable. To direct deformation, stiff inclusions such as wires can be introduced, at the cost of reducing the amplitude of morphing. Some pin-jointed structures or origami are very controllable (“1 degree-of-freedom” deployment) but at the expense of very limited morphing versatility.

The Technology

The technology relies on the mechanical concept that by assembling surfaces made out of slidable rods, such surfaces can achieve extreme morphing by sliding the rods non-uniformly The physical realization of such meta-material is very easy since it only needs a collection of rods with suitable inter-locking geometry made out of any elastic material, see Fig. 1 for 3D printed rods and their geometry. As such, this technology is scale-free.
Such surfaces made of slidable rods can adopt a wide variety of shapes. For instance, an initially straight tube can morph into a flat annulus, a bulged tube, a trumpet, a basket . A mathematical model validated with experiments shows tha this single tubular device can adopt essentially any axisymmetric smooth. Non-axisymmetric morphing is also possible.

Innovative advantages

· Unlimited local deformation granted by unlimited sliding enables extreme morphing.

· As opposed to sparse pin-jointed or braided structures, this technology provides a continu ous envelope with tunable porosity.

· In stent applications, a continuous envelope reduces the stress concentrations and tissue damage.

· In space antennae or solar sail applications, our continuous tubular structures can be efficiently packed in a space-craft to be later deployed into nearly planar or curved shapes. .

· In tubular devices made with our technology with a pneumatic chamber, shortening can b coupled to rotation, enabling simple rotational artificial muscles, which with current McKibben muscles require complex assemblies.

· A single mechanism can implement bending and inflation of tubular devices

· Functional morphing is accompanied by an aesthetically appealing change of helicity of the rods on the surface.

· Shape can be programmed by suitably controlling the mechanical properties of the consti uent rods, for instance using their geometry.

Current stage of development

A complete mathematical theory has developed to understand this new principle of morphing and to predict the mechanical properties of the meta-material surfaces. There are prototypes built 3D printing, ranging from rods with sub-micron features (two-photon lithography) to ro with centimeter features (filament 3D printing). The morphing capability and mechanics of th prototypes (Figs. 1, 2, 3) have been tested and the mathematical theory has confirmed, which thus provides a solid conceptual foundation to engineer devices based on this technology.

Applications and Target Market

We envision three different fields of application: Soft robotic/biomedical devices, Design an architecture and Space deployable structures.

Intellectual property status

  • Granted Patent
  • Patent application number :-

Related Keywords

  • Automation, Robotics Control Systems
  • Environmental and Biometrics Sensors, Actuators
  • Mechanism Engineering
  • Robotics
  • shape-shifting materials

About Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech is a public institution dedicated to higher education and research in the fields of engineering, architecture and science, which contributes its knowledge and expertise in order to increase scientific output, transfer its results to society and provide a network of scientific and technical state-of-the-art facilities and technology valorization services that place us at the leading edge of innovation and economic development.

The UPC has established itself as a driver of innovation and is the technology partner of choice for companies and organizations with which it develops projects and builds partnerships. A role borne out by the numerous agreements and research projects that have been set in motion by groups, organizations and laboratories; the creation of new technology-based companies; the generation and exploitation of patents, and the scientific and technical services UPC makes available to its environment in order to generate progress and employment.

The Technology Transfer Office (SGI) is responsible of Designing, coordinating and implementing research valorisation strategies, carrying out the protection policy of the research results, marketing these results through license contracts and designing and setting up the University's enterprise creation model in order to transfer the results of the research to the market, protect and commercialize these results, promote the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and create technology-based companies within the UPC environment.

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Never miss an update from Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Create your free account to connect with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC and thousands of other innovative organizations and professionals worldwide

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Send a request for information
to Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

About Technology Offers

Technology Offers on Innoget are directly posted
and managed by its members as well as evaluation of requests for information. Innoget is the trusted open innovation and science network aimed at directly connect industry needs with professionals online.


Need help requesting additional information or have questions regarding this Technology Offer?
Contact Innoget support