3D-Printed Self-Folding Electronics
Self-transforming structures are gaining prominence due to their general ability to adopt programmed shapes each tailored for specific functions. Composites that self-fold have so far relied on using the stimuli−responsive mechanisms focusing on reversible shape change. Integrating additional functions within these composites can rapidly enhance their practical applicability; however, this remains a challenging problem. Here, we demonstrate a method for spontaneous folding of three-dimensional (3D)-printed composites with embedded electronics at room temperature. The composite is printed using a multimaterial 3D-printing process with no external processing steps. Upon peeling from the print platform, the composite self-shapes itself using the residual forces resulting from polymer swelling during the layer-by-layer fabrication process. As a specific example, electrochromic elements are printed within the composite and can be electrically controlled through its folded legs. Our shape-transformation scheme provides a route to transform planar electronics into nonplanar geometries containing the overhangs. Integrating electronics within complex 3D shapes can enable new applications in sensing and robotics.