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Architecture inspired by ladybug wings

Researchers and students from University of Stuttgart developed a large-scale architectural structure inspired by the folding mechanisms of ladybug wings, made of carbon and glass fibre-reinforced plastic.

The structure is inspired by the wings of the Coleoptera coccinellidae, better known as the ladybug. Like many beetle species, ladybugs cover their frail hind wings with more robust forewings. To completely pack them under the forewings, the hind wings fold along distinct flexible hinges, which enable the insects to unfold them rapidly. The patterns can be mathematically described as flexagons, a common origami folding pattern. The researchers identified the ladybug as the beetle with the most promising folding patterns.

An industrial robotic tape-laying process of carbon and glass fibres with a polyamide matrix enabled automated fabrication of laminates with highly differentiated material gradients. Carbon fibre was only used where structurally needed, while glass fibre was used to create continuous large-scale plates. The latter also provides a translucent effect.

When the fibre tapes were laid in place, the material was pressure-heated. The edge zones were heat-formed with a custom developed machine to curls them into beam-like elements.

The structure consist of two folding chair-like components with a width of 1.7 metres (5.6 ft) and a height of 3 metres and 2.5 metres (9.8 and 8.2 ft). Each element weighs 23 kg (50 lbs). The motion of the structure is achieved through active pneumatic actuation of the cushions.

The control system is interactive and consists of intergraded sensors and online communication. The user can change the position of the ‘wing’ by touching the structure in certain places.

Images: ICD/ITKE, University of Stuttgart