Skip to main content
Technologies

Folding Rigid-Panel Using Computed-Surface Rolling-Contact Joints

ID: 2016-003 This invention allows for a folding mechanism with rigid panels to unfold to a planar flat position and then fold into a configuration where the panels are stacked parallel to one another and offset perpendicular to one another.

Principal Investigator: Larry Howell

Origami-inspired, origami-adapted, and origami-applied mechanisms have been used to realize a wide variety of deploy­able forms, ranging from space-based solar arrays to arterial stents to backpacks. While the applications are quite di­verse, most folding-based engineering designs begin with a con­cept that is fundamentally a zero-thickness mathematical model and then transform it so that it can be realized with non-zero thickness materials.

A fundamental problem with thick rigidly foldable mechanisms is that if one simply "thickens" the panels of a zero-thickness mechanism, one almost immediately runs into problems with mechanical interference between pairs of panels. For mechanisms that fold flat (highly desirable for deployable structures), in the flat folded state, all of the panels would be coplanar (and thus, may be mutually interfering) in the stowed (flat-folded) state.

This invention allows for a folding mechanism with rigid panels to unfold to a planar flat position and then fold into a configuration where the panels are stacked parallel to one another and offset perpendicular to one another. Other techniques to accomplish this type of folding motion with rigid panels are limited to work with certain folding patterns, have panels lying in different planes in the flat unfolded position, cannot achieve the full folding range of motion, or do not preserve the kinematic qualities of an equivalent mechanism with no-thickness panels. This technique allows for all of these issues to be addressed simultaneously.

The joint itself varies from the other rolling cam joints in that the rolling surfaces have been computed to control the instantaneous axis of rotation path and the path's velocity. These surfaces therefore have cams which can be circular, or far from circular in shape.

The distinct advantages of this invention with that of the prior art is that the technique simultaneously (1) accommodates panels of arbitrary thickness, (2) begins with a planar unfolded state, (3) ends with side-by-side parallel stacked panels in the fully folded state, and (4) preserves the kinematic motion of the zero-thickness model, including single-DOF motion.

This invention is suitable for use in applications where two states are desired, a folded compact state, or unfolded state. These could represent applications such as stowable camping gear, emergency shelters, aerospace applications, and minimally invasive surgery.

See also invention number 2013-085.


For more information, contact Spencer Rogers (801-422-3676)

Links and Resources

  1. One Page Summary PDF
  2. Link to Related Invention (2013-085)
  3. Inventor Webpage
  4. Compliant Mechanisms Research Group Webpage