Glass figurines learned to fold using origami

Researchers from Zhejiang University have presented a technology for creating complex shapes from glass or

other solid materials using the origami technique. Finished products are formed from flexible sheets of glass. The shape can be fixed or the product can be expanded and folded again.

For the production of blanks for future productsThe scientists mixed nanoparticles of silica, the main ingredient in glass, with a solution of a light-sensitive liquid polymer and other compounds. Curing the mixture with ultraviolet light formed a cross-linked polycaprolactone polymer with tiny silica globules suspended in it.

Products made using new technology. Image: Yang Xu, American Chemical Society

Such a sheet could be processed usingtraditional origami technique at room temperature. The researchers cut, folded, twisted and stretched the sheets to make a crane, a feather, a lace vase, and a sphere from intertwined ribbons. At room temperature, the composite retained its new shape quite well, but it could be taken apart again.

To fix the new shape, the compositemust be heated to approximately 130°C during processing. Thermal action rearranges the links between the polymer chains, firmly fixing the new shape. Moreover, if the finished product is heated to a temperature above 600 ° C, the material loses polycaprolactone and becomes opaque. And as the temperature rises to 1,260°C, the silica particles fuse together, turning the object into clear glass with a smooth, non-laminated texture.

Most three-dimensional glass and ceramicobjects are produced by molding and blowing. But these methods limit the ability to print complex forms. This is partly solved with 3D printing, but it is too slow, and the finished products have a layered texture that spoils the look.

The researchers believe that the new technologywill provide an alternative method for such production. They are working on expanding the approach to produce not only glass, but also ceramic products.

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