Origami bird

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On a blue grated mat, a bird like object with a waffled structure next to other small objects.

On a blue grated mat, a bird like object with a waffled structure next to other small objects. Photo: Bok Yoep Ahn

This elaborate is a masterly crafted peace of artwork, yet it represents much more. This creation is the size of a penny, and folded from a printed sheet of titanium hydride ink. It was created at the University of Illinois, and presents a new method for the creation of microsystems, including three-dimensional structures for biocompatible devices, as well as microscaffolding.

The structure was created by combining the techniques of origami with direct-write assembly, in which a structure is assembled one layer at a time by a larger printer depositing inks containing metallic, ceramic or plastic particles. This allowed the team to create a greater structural complexity, giving the technique an extraordinary amount of versatility in its applications.

“By combining these methods, you can rapidly assemble very complex structures that simply cannot be made by conventional fabrication methods,” explained Jennifer Lewis, a professor at UI.