Laser origami process schematic
Laser origami process schematic

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed a method to generate self-folding 3D structures on low-temperature substrates through the controlled out-of-plane folding of arbitrary 2D designs using laser direct-write (LDW) techniques. The invention uses a single laser tool to print 2D patterns, deposit an actuating layer, and provide controlled activation of each actuation layer to trigger the folding of single or arrayed micro-assemblies.

Currently, methods to assemble complex 3D systems include creating a 2D pattern and then using another method, such as mechanical stress, to bring the structures out of plane. However, these techniques limit flexibility, require materials that can withstand high temperatures, and cannot activate structures locally. The Laser Origami process streamlines this technique. The initial 2D designs are laser patterned on the membrane, which can be planar or conforming to a surface. Active elements are placed through laser transfer or laser cutting, making the process compatible with NRL’s “lase-and-place” technique of placing actuating elements directly onto a receiving substrate. Lastly, laser curing, heating, or ablation is used for out-of-plane actuation. Laser Origami is an inherently low-temperature process, which widens the array of material systems that can be integrated despite previous limitations. Each micro-structure in the pattern is pre-programmed with the information required for building itself, and can be actuated independently of the rest.

NRL is looking to incorporate the technology in the realm of aerospace engineering, military production, and antennas, such as those in cell phones. Laser Origami has the potential to be applied to the production of electronic and optical components for highly integrated electro-optic systems or artificial electromagnetic materials over large areas using roll-to-roll processes.

Benefits:

  • Flexible: Can fabricate and fold optical structures at arbitrary angles
  • Selectable: Each micro-structure in the pattern is pre-programmed with the information required for building itself, and can be actuated independently of the rest, or all simultaneously.
  • Scalable: Can process large-area and multiscale structure of dissimilar models

Available for License: US Patent Publication No. US2012/0183702

Folded 3D resonator patterns on Kapton
Folded 3D resonator patterns on Kapton
Micrometer-sized 3D copper assemblies
Micrometer-sized 3D copper assemblies

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