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Self-folding of complex origami-inspired structures from flat states allows for the incorporation of a multitude of surface-related functionalities into the final 3D device. Several self-folding techniques have therefore been developed during the last few years to fabricate such multi-functional devices. The vast majority of such approaches are, however, limited to simple folding sequences, specific materials, or large length scales, rendering them inapplicable to microscale (meta)materials and devices with complex geometries, which are often made from materials other than the ones for which these approaches are developed. Here, we propose a mechanical self-folding technique that only requires global stretching for activation, is applicable to a wide range of materials, allows for sequential self-folding of multi-storey constructs, and can be downscaled to microscale dimensions. We combined two types of permanently deforming kirigami elements, working on the basis of either multi-stability or plastic deformation, with an elastic layer to create self-folding basic elements. The folding angles of these elements could be controlled using the kirigami cut patterns as well as the dimensions of the elastic layer and be accurately predicted using our computational models. We then assembled these basic elements in a modular manner to create multiple complex 3D structures (e.g., multi-storey origami lattices) in different sizes including some with microscale feature sizes. Moreover, starting from a flat state enabled us to incorporate not only precisely controlled, arbitrarily complex, and spatially varied micropatterns but also flexible electronics into the self-folded 3D structures. In all cases, our computational models could capture the self-folding behavior of the assemblies and the strains in the connectors of the flexible electronic devices, thereby guiding the rational design of our specimens. This approach has numerous potential applications including fabrication of multi-functional and instrumented implantable medical devices, steerable medical instruments, and microrobots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
JournalMaterials Today
Volume32
Issue numberJan-Febr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 57054042