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Technical Briefs

PCB Origami: A Material-Based Design Approach to Computer-Aided Foldable Electronic Devices

[+] Author and Article Information
Yoav Sterman

Mediated Matter Group,
Media Lab,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: sterman@mit.edu

Erik D. Demaine

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: edemaine@mit.edu

Neri Oxman

Mediated Matter Group,
Media Lab,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: neri@mit.edu

Contributed by the Design Automation Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received January 28, 2013; final manuscript received June 3, 2013; published online October 8, 2013. Assoc. Editor: Larry L. Howell.

J. Mech. Des 135(11), 114502 (Oct 08, 2013) (4 pages) Paper No: MD-13-1031; doi: 10.1115/1.4025370 History: Received January 28, 2013; Revised June 03, 2013

Origami is traditionally implemented in paper, which is a passive material. This research explores the use of material with embedded electronics such as printed circuit boards (PCB) as the medium for origami folding to create an interactive folding experience and to generate foldable objects with added functionalities. PCBs are produced as 2D shapes. By folding PCB arrays, it is possible to create 3D objects that contain electronic functions. Conductivity, output devices (such as light emitting diodes) and microcontroller computation can create an interactive folding experience, for user guidance and verification of the folding. We call this approach and methodology PCB origami. The work presented in this paper describes two unique interaction and fabrication techniques for creating and folding electronic materials. We demonstrate prototypes and present verification/evaluation strategies for guiding the user through the folding process.

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Figures

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

The process of fabricating and folding the Latin cross polygon. A flexible PCB is laminated between two sheets of machined acrylic plastic (a). The Latin cross shape is connected to the frame with small links that can later be broken to extract the shape (b). The polygon can be folded into a pentahedron (c) or a cube (d).

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

A set of tabs and slots have been placed on specific sides of the Latin cross polygon. The tabs are marked with letters and the slots are marked with numbers. The lists show different pair assignments, creating a pentahedron or a cube. LEDs are placed next to each tab or slot.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

Three layers of paper are laminated using pegs. A circuit board is glued onto the middle layer from both sides (a) the outer layers are being used for masking, with holes that reveal the conductive pads (b).

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

For each fold, a crease line is perpendicular at the midpoint to a line between two dots (a). The microcontroller can sense when two dots are touching (b), then signal the software to proceed to the next fold. In this example, the paper folds into a boat, after 12 steps (c).

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