Beaded machines, Beadwork, Tutorials

Beaded Reconfigurable Materials

Reconfigurable materials are materials without a fixed shape – surfaces with a shape that can be changed to different configurations. They have some similarities to kaleidocycles and folding cubes, as you can see from this video from the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences:

Here’s another video from Johannes Overvelde, one of the researchers who studies these surfaces:

Diane Fitzgerald recently posted a challenge in the Johnson Solids Project group on facebook to try making beadwork versions of these structures. Lots of people rose to the challenge and before long there were lots of photos of beaded reconfigurable materials!

Here’s one I made in response to the challenge:

This is based on the hexagonal prism unit from the paper Rational design of reconfigurable prismatic architected materials (Overvelde et al., 2017, Nature 541, 347), which you can see in subfigure k in Supplementary Figure 7.

You can see that it follows the outline of a hexagonal prism, with pairs of squares added to each edge. It reconfigures to a lot of different shapes:

It’s interesting to see just how different it can be made to look! However, it is also however very fragile, as the peyote squares put the corner beads under a lot of pressure, so you need to be very very careful with it (I had a sliver of glass ping off one of the beads while folding it into a different shape!).

If you want to try making one of these fragile but interesting shapes, here’s a brief walkthrough of how I made this hexagonal prism unit. I used the same sized squares as in the Beaded Johnson solid project and used size 15 seed beads for the hinges.

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