Japanese Art of Kirigami Inspires Alternative To 3D Printing

A team of researchers was able to apply kirigami to nanostructures.
Derya Ozdemir
Kirigami exampleMarynaVoronova/iStock

A team of researchers from Northwestern Engineering has taken inspiration from a Japanese art style that involves paper-folding practices such as paper-folding practices for a new engineering technique.

The art style in question is named kirigami where paper is cut and transformed into a 3D object. In this kirigami-style, sophisticated alternative to 3D printing, engineers are able to create a wide range of complex structures using thin layers of material and software to select exact geometric cuts, per the press release.

Kirigami and nanomanufacturing

A previous study published in 2015 had shown promise in the "kirigami pop-up fabrication model"; however, the creations had limited ability to achieve closed shapes. This new research, published in the journal Advanced Materials from Northwestern Engineering, has taken the previous research a step further by applying the concepts of design and kirigami to nanostructures.

Horacio Espinosa, a mechanical engineering professor in the McCormick School of Engineering, stated, "By combining nanomanufacturing, in situ microscopy experimentation, and computational modeling, we unraveled the rich behavior of kirigami structures and identified conditions for their use in practical applications."

Japanese Art of Kirigami Inspires Alternative To 3D Printing
Source: Northwestern University/Phys.org

Here is how it goes: The researchers create 2D structures using the method and "kirigami cuts" placed on ultrathin films. This creates structural instabilities that are induced by residual stresses in the films. Well-defined 3D structures are then achieved this way. 


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The researchers state that these structures could be used in applications ranging from microscale grippers to spatial light modulators to flow control in airplane wings

You can watch the technique in action below:

As the YouTube description states, the materials are bent and twisted into different shapes after signature kirigami cuts are made in extremely thin materials.

When further research is done, the team aims to explore more of the kirigami designs in order to achieve a larger number of possible functionalities. The team believes architecture, aerospace, and environmental engineering could benefit from this technique in the future.

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