Soft deployable structures via core-shell inflatables


Deployable structures capable of significant geometric reconfigurations are ubiquitous in nature. While engineering contraptions typically comprise articulated rigid elements, soft structures that experience material growth for deployment mostly remain the handiwork of biology, e.g., when winged insects deploy their wings during metamorphosis. Here we perform experiments and develop formal models to rationalize the previously unexplored physics of soft deployable structures using core-shell inflatables. We first derive a Maxwell construction to model the expansion of a hyperelastic cylindrical core constrained by a rigid shell. Based on these results, we identify a strategy to obtain synchronized deployment in soft networks. We then show that a single actuated element behaves as an elastic beam with a pressure-dependent bending stiffness which allows us to model complex deployed networks and demonstrate the ability to reconfigure their final shape. Finally, we generalize our results to obtain three-dimensional elastic gridshells, demonstrating our approach’s applicability to assemble complex structures using core-shell inflatables as building blocks. Our results leverage material and geometric nonlinearities to create a low-energy pathway to growth and reconfiguration for soft deployable structures.

Physical Review Letters