A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a way to use 3-D printers to create objects capable of expanding dramatically that could someday be used in applications ranging from space missions to biomedical devices.
The new objects use tensegrity, a structural system of floating rods in compression and cables in continuous tension. The researchers fabricated the struts from shape memory polymers that unfold when heated.
“Tensegrity structures are extremely lightweight while also being very strong,” said Glaucio Paulino, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “That’s the reason there’s a heavy amount of interest right now in researching the use of tensegrity structures for outer space exploration. The goal is to find a way to deploy a large object that initially takes up little space.”