Pop-up coffee table -- no assembly required: Kiriform structures harness buckling for stable, deployable structures

From backyards to Mars, deployable structures are objects that can be transformed from a compact to an expanded state. However, it can be difficult to transform two-dimensional forms into three-dimensional structures as someone who has tried to open a non-cooperative folding chair will tell you.Researchers from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Graduate School of Design have created a lightweight, compact, affordable, simple to manufacture and deployable system. The system uses the mechanical instabilities of curved beams to transform objects into complex and customizable 3D structures on a variety of scales, including large-scale furniture or small medical devices.Saurabh Mhatre (a GSD research associate and the first author of this paper) stated that most buckling-induced deployable structures like folding chairs are activated through compressive forces. Our approach is different because the compression force is generated by a rotational motion, which induces buckling and triggers the 2D-to-3D conversion.Engineers and designers used a combination experiment and numerical analysis to study the geometry of narrow beams, and what happens when they buckle. Researchers were able design deployable structures by harnessing the phenomenon of buckling, which is a common engineering and design problem.The team created a lampshade that can rotate to let in more light, and a coffee-table that folds flat in one motion.Katia Bertoldi is the William and Ami Kun Danoff Professor of Applied Mechanics, SEAS, and the senior author of this study. These structures could be used for medical devices, optical devices such as camera focusing mechanisms, deployable turbines and wheels, furniture, or shelters.This research was recently published in Advanced Materials. It was co-authored with Elisa Boatti and David Melancon as well as Ahmad Zareei (Maxime Dupont) and Martin Bechthold. It was partially supported by the National Science Foundation through Harvard University Materials Research Science Science Science Engineering Center grants DMR2011754 and DMR1922321.