Composite membrane origami has been an efficient and effective method for constructing transformable mechanisms while considerably simplifying their design, fabrication, and assembly; however, its limited load-bearing capability has restricted its application potential. With respect to wheel design, membrane origami offers unique benefits compared with its conventional counterparts, such as simple fabrication, high weight-to-payload ratio, and large shape variation, enabling softness and flexibility in a kinematic mechanism that neutralizes joint distortion and absorbs shocks from the ground. Here, we report a transformable wheel based on membrane origami capable of bearing more than a 10-kilonewton load. To achieve a high payload, we adopt a thick membrane as an essential element and introduce a wireframe design rule for thick membrane accommodation. An increase in the thickness can cause a geometric conflict for the facet and the membrane, but the excessive strain energy accumulation is unique to the thickness increase of the membrane. Thus, the design rules for accommodating membrane thickness aim to address both geometric and physical characteristics, and these rules are applied to basic origami patterns to obtain the desired wheel shapes and transformation. The capability of the resulting wheel applied to a passenger vehicle and validated through a field test. Our study shows that membrane origami can be used for high-payload applications.
Source: Science Mag: High-load capacity origami transformable wheel