“Origami starts with a simple sheet of paper that is two-dimensional, and by simply folding it you achieve a three-dimensional figure,” Kwok explains. “Recreating this 3D figure through a manufacturing process like 3D printing comes with imperfections. You notice them particularly in the edges where you trade the smooth edge of a sheet of paper for a ragged staircase effect, as you would find in a pixelated image.”
To maximize precision and achieve a more accurate replica, Kwok turned to smart materials. Most materials expand under heat, so they can be structured in a way that a designed 3D shape can be obtained when heat is applied. This level of control allows a manufacturer to dictate changes in the material, define what the trigger is and achieve a precise final shape. In its infancy, the research behind this approach speaks to Concordia’s leadership in the field of Industry 4.0, and represents the next generation of manufacturing.
The future is custom
Accessibility is what drives Kwok’s interest in mass customization and personalization. Through his research, he is taking steps to develop processes and platforms where manufactured items become more cost-efficient and broadly available.
“Everyone dreads the cost of getting braces,” he says. “They are costly because they are custom-made by specialized medical doctors. Imagine a world where braces can be digitally designed within minutes by users worldwide and manufactured locally for a fraction of that cost.”
Learn more about Concordia’s Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering.