Dr. Suyi Li wins $192,604 NSF grant

September 5, 2016


Suyi Li

Suyi Li, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has won a grant to support the project “Uncovering the Dynamics and Functionality of Origami Structures and Materials”. The grant will be funded by the Dynamics, Control and Systems Diagnostics (DCSD) program, which is part of the Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) division at the NSF.

This will be a three year, collaborative project. Li is collaborating with Kon-Well Wang, Tim Manganello/BorgWarner Department Chair and Stephen P. Timoshenko Collegiate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, from the University of Michigan.

Project Abstract:

Origami is the ancient art of folding paper into decorative shapes and geometries. Over the last several decades, it evolved and became a design framework for many engineering and architecture applications. Examples include deployable space structures, kinetic buildings, self-folding robots, surgery devices, and advanced materials. Origami folding so far has been considered as a static process. People typically focus on its design and geometry, or internal actuation mechanisms that makes the folding autonomous. This award supports a collaborative project that will investigate the fundamental dynamic characteristics of origami folding. In particular, the research will explore how to harness the extraordinary properties of origami for applications like vibration isolation at low frequency, recoverable impact absorption, and impulsive actuation. Furthermore, the research will produce design tools that can generate sophisticated folding patterns and assign material properties that are suitable for a wide variety of dynamic performance requirements. The results of this project will become the building blocks for the next generation of air, marine, and land vehicles, intelligent machines and robots, or smart infrastructures, enhancing their functionality, safety and sustainability. The findings will thus advance the aerospace, civil, mechanical, robotics and many other industries. Education and broadening participation plans will focus on student learning and community outreach at various levels and on the enhancement diversity through inclusion in the research activities of members of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering.

This research will, for the first time, rigorously investigate the dynamic characteristics of origami folding and develop its corresponding engineering potentials. Preliminary studies have discovered that origami with generic crease patterns exhibits many attractive properties via folding, such as zero/negative stiffness, pressure dependent multi-stability, and piece-wise stiffness jump. Such surprisingly rich properties and the corresponding dynamic responses will be analyzed in detail based on an equivalent truss-frame model, which transforms the continuous origami structure into a finite degree of freedom system. The truss frame model would also become the basis of a comprehensive synthesis tool that incorporates crease perturbation and optimization, so that the origami can be customized for prescribed dynamic performances. This synthesis tool will bridge the currently separated branches of studies: the mathematical theories of origami design/folding and the engineering of origami based applications. Overall, the new modeling, analysis and synthesis tools for origami dynamics will create a significant intellectual leap and build a strong foundation for many future related research and development efforts.