The goal of this research is to experimentally characterize the capabilities of a concept for a self-folding reconfigurable sheet for use in origami-inspired engineering design and to use this characterization to validate simulations of physics-based models of the sheet. The sheet consists of an active, self-morphing laminate that contains two shape memory alloy (SMA) mesh layers and a passive compliant medium between these layers. The SMA layers are thermally actuated, allowing bending to occur in both positive and negative directions to create soft hill and valley folds. These folds are completely reversible, allowing the structure to fold and unfold without permanent deformation. Unlike past work on self-folding structures, these sheets can have folds along any line, be subsequently unfolded, and then be folded again in a new way.
To explore the effect of changing design parameters on the performance metrics of the sheet, it is desirable to use Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulations instead of relying on time consuming experiments. Such models have been created incorporating user material subroutines (UMATs) in an FEA solver such as Abaqus to capture material behavior, but these must now be validated against experimental data to establish how well they match experimental performance. The primary performance metric of the sheet was chosen to be the radius of curvature measured perpendicularly to the line of heating. Both experiment and simulation focus on the radius of curvature achieved by the sheet for a given set of design parameters and actuation path. The goal of validation is to achieve a desirable level of agreement and repeatability in these results.
To measure the deformation and curvature in the sheet as it actuates, a 3D Digital Image Correlation (3D DIC) system is employed to track the movement of points along the surface of the sample as it is heated to a temperature above the transformation temperature of the SMA and allowed to fully actuate. These tools are utilized for a number of samples so that validation of the sheet encompasses multiple values for each of the primary design parameters.