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Researchers Create Earwig Inspired Origami

Origami is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word "origami" is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. Origami is enjoyed by children very often. In the real world if we see, the wing of an earwig is a perfect example of origami. An earwig wing expands to almost 10 times when it is open. It is with the help of its large wing area that the insect flies. On the other hand when this insect compacts itself, the retracted wings help the insect to dig inside an underground tunnel without damaging its wings.

One of its unique attribute is that it doesn’t require any sort of muscular power for attaining stability when it is open or close. Lately, the researchers at the ETH Zurich and Purdue University analysed the secret of the earwig's origami-like wings and created an artificial structure that functions on the same principle. They conducted a computer simulation of the wing's function. As a result they realised that using rigid, straight folds with an angular sum of 360 degrees at their intersections would not be very helpful. The wing joints are made from layers of a special elastic biopolymer, resilin, whose arrangement and thickness determines the spring type. In some instances, both extensional and rotational functions are combined in the same joint. Further they transferred their findings of the computer simulations to a multi-material 3D printer. They applied the principle to larger elements and printed a spring origami gripper. This structure has a capability of self-folding, locking and gripping objects without the need for external actuation. These structures may find application in the future foldable electronics, space travel: solar sails for satellites or space probes etc.

By: Anuja Arora


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