Lead researcher Jerry Qi, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, said the origami objects created so far include tiny flowers, tables, capsules, and birds — all about a half an inch in size. Aside from being empirically cool, the process has several potentially useful applications.
“As our method can be generally applied to most photopolymers, many of which are biocompatible, they can used for drug delivery or soft robots for biomedical devices,” Qi said. In other words, the process could be used to create tiny bots that move around inside the body, bringing medicine to precisely where it's needed, then dissolving like a heroic little gummy bear.
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Other researchers are working toward similar goals. For instance, a team at MIT is developing medical origami bots that can be steered through the body using internal magnets and external electromagnetic fields.
Qi said his team's design model could allow for even more complex designs using sophisticated computer-assisted design programs, or by exposing the film to light from both the bottom and the top. For instance, the technique could be used as a platform for 3D electronics.
“One can print the film first, place electronics devices on the film, then let the film fold into 3D shape,” Qi said. “Placing devices is much easier on a 2D sheet then in 3D structure.”
It seems that the ancient art of paper folding has successfully transitioned into the 21st century. Nice work, origami. Welcome back to the fold.
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