Swinburne origami-inspired materials to strengthen trains

Image credit: Swinburne University of Technology

Professor Guoxing Lu from Swinburne’s department of mechanical engineering and product design is collaborating with the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre to find better metamaterial to strengthen the core of rail sandwich panels.

Swinburne University of Technology researchers are turning origami shaped two dimensional materials (2D) into three dimensional (3D) metamaterials to replace aluminium foam used in train manufacture.

“Such origami metamaterials could be fabricated by stamping, lasering, and 3D printing thin metal sheets, or carbon-based composite materials, which could then be weld together to form 3D materials,” Lu said.

Metamaterials are materials that combine composition and shape to produce properties different to the material alone. Aluminium foam is commonly found at the core of the panels on trains, usually two thin tough sheets of material bordering a foam core.

Lu’s is currently working with aluminium, for its low cost and light weight efficiency. However, his latest analytical and numerical simulations of Miura-origami aluminium 2D folded structures, welded into a 3D shape, has shown better energy absorption than conventional honeycomb structures at low to moderate load intensities.

The inspiration stemmed from Miura-origami shapes that fold up during transport and unfold in space.