Professor designs shape shifters

Nov 22, 2012 by Katy Hennig
Shape shifting invention

(Phys.org)—Craig Lusk's job takes on many shapes.

The University of South Florida engineering professor uses a laser to cut sheets of into dynamic, geometric pieces. He uses his research to tie together the shapes in a way that could revolutionize some industries and create new products not yet invented.

Lusk specializes in something called "compliant mechanisms," which refers to the movement, or motion, the precision-cut shapes take on when they interact with each other.

"The idea behind this is I have a that is very flexible in the plane. I can compress it, I can expand it, and I can shift it in a motion from side to side in a motion called shearing. So it's very flexible to motions in the plane but it's very rigid if I have something out of plane," said Lusk.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Lusk thinks the strength and flexibility of the surfaces could be incorporated into for police and the military. It could provide a range of motion that Lusk says is similar to the old chain-link armor worn by battling knights, but better because the specially designed springs allow for lightweight, flexible, and extremely durable defense. The shapes could be fashioned into a protective, but collapsible shield as well.

Other applications include robotics and making antennas more flexible and responsive to locating signals. The possibilities for utilizing the shape shifting surfaces are numerous, Lusk said.

Lusk has been working on the original design that he brought with him to USF and has secured a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his research. Now, he has taken the concept to the next level designing numerous versions, shapes, and sizes of the surfaces.

"This is built based on the idea of lines bending in a plane, like on a . Now if you make things bend all up out of the plane, you can get things that are a little more complicated," said Lusk as he demonstrated the movements.

The design includes extremely precise geometrical calculations and laser cutting on a computer numeric control machine, in order to align the surfaces perfectly. Dozens of the assembled shapes are scattered around his office, on shelves and filing cabinets.

Explore further: An innovative system anticipates driver fatigue in the vehicle to prevent accidents

Related Stories

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a robot bird (w/ video)

Mar 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The great thing about robots is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Of course, that is also one of the creepiest things about robots too. You never know what is going to be a robot these ...

Recommended for you

Catching grease to cut grill pollution

Jul 21, 2014

A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students have designed a tray that when placed under the grates of a backyard grill reduces by 70 percent the level of a harmful ...

User comments : 0