Fabrication and characterization of self-folding thermoplastic sheets using unbalanced thermal shrinkage

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Self-folding or micro-origami technologies are actively investigated as a novel manufacturing process to fabricate three-dimensional macro/micro-structures. In this paper, we present a simple process to produce a self-folding structure with a biaxially oriented polystyrene sheet (BOPS) or Shrinky Dinks. A BOPS sheet is known to shrink to one-third of its original size in plane, when it is heated above 160 °C. A grid pattern is engraved on one side of the BOPS film with a laser engraver to decrease the thermal shrinkage of the engraved side. The thermal shrinkage of the non-engraved side remains the same and this unbalanced thermal shrinkage causes folding of the structure as the structure shrinks at high temperature. We investigated the self-folding mechanism and characterized how the grid geometry, the grid size, and the power of the laser engraver affect the bending curvature. The developed fabrication process to locally modulate thermomechanical properties of the material by engraving the grid pattern and the demonstrated design methodology to harness the unbalanced thermal shrinkage can be applied to develop complicated self-folding macro/micro structures.

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Soft Matter

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