In our previous post proposing a new kind of auxetic package design, we started with some breathtakingly complex models. That was counter-intuitive, perhaps. Maybe it’s better for us to walk before we run. As amazing as they are, those complex structures are hard to get your head around. It’s easier to grasp these transformations when they’re 2-dimensional.
Toys from Trash
Alison Grace Martin‘s video above is a good place to start. She posted this video as part of her toys-from-trash album on Flickr. She hinged 9 boxes (that appear to be milk cartons) together with tape. In this way, she shows us how we might extrude a 2-dimensional auxetic structure into 3-dimensional packaging. Her kinetic 9-pack of boxes transform in the same way as Adrian Rossiter‘s animated gif of planar “jitterbugging” squares (above right).
How is this a “simpler” approach? Because we are confining our hinged boxes to movements that can be made by polygons in a 2-dimensions plane. This is similar to an idea we’ve suggested before. (See: The Haberdasher’s Package and Chained Polyhedral Portion Packs)
The difference this time, is that we can design multi-packs capable of “jitterbug” style auxetic transformations. A few have already experimented with this idea.
Ron Resch won patent protection for this entire class of jitterbug-related structures in 1965.
In his patent, he stipulates just the sort of hinged-polygons-extruded-into-prisms that we have in mind for our new class of packaging structures. His “geometrical devices”…
… could be constructed from relatively flat sheet material. Thus, the description to this point has been directed toward sections comprised of squares, triangles, and rhombuses. However, the invention could be equally advantageously carried out if the sections were constructed from blocks of material having a substantial third dimension. Thus, [a device] could be constructed from prisms…
More Milk Carton Models
Resch says nothing about packaging applications in his 1965 patent, although (like Alison Grace Martin at the top of this post) he used milk cartons to make some of his 3-dimensional models. Below is an except from The Ron Resch Paper and Stick Film. (I like the way his plaid shirt, at the beginning of this excerpt, relates to the geometry of his milk carton models.)
One practical application for a consumer product that Resch included in his patent claims was for an expandable trivet. Who would benefit from such a product? According to this mid-century patent: “housewives and the like.1”
More recently, designers seeking commercial applications for these “planar jitterbugs” have proposed other household objects — usually transformable furniture.
No convertible couches, but several tables, bookcases and room dividers come to mind.
Lee Sehoon designed his transformable “Squaring” shelf in 2012.
He also designed an auxetic “Squaring Table” in 2013.
Auxetic Package Design
As for the packaging experiments we promised, we have scarcely two examples.
In the video above Edelman demonstrates one of her Jitterboxes opening to reveal jars. I love the way she’s secured the lids so as to reveal all of the jars in one fell swoop.
I also like the multi-layer compartments of her Jitterbox below. (Although, seeing the boxes arrange themselves into a swastika shape during their auxetic transformation seems problematic.)
Allison Chen is another designer who experimented at RISD with 3-dimensional jitterbug transformations. We’re showing her “antiprism jitterbug” gif above.
A jitterbug is a kinetic geometric object that twists and changes shape. I developed a version of the flat square jitterbug for fun.
You’ll notice that Chen calls her design a “kinetic geometric object” rather than a package. I may want it to be a package, but, perhaps, it’s just not.
I’m not sure if it’s a closed volume. She describes it as having a “closed cover based on a square antiprism,” but it looks like it might be open underneath.
She designed an origami-like folding template for the object which you can download from her website. I guess I should do that.
Even if her design is open underneath, it might still be applicable to package design. The form is a little bit reminiscent of 4-pack of yogurt containers.
I’m not proposing that we subject a filled 4-pack of yogurts to Chen’s jitterbug transformation. Like the Harvard “extruded cube” module that we were speculating about last time, Chen’s object goes through a completely flat stage. That, clearly will not work with full containers. Once the containers are empty however, maybe we have some post-consumer (kinetic, geometric) toys?
Although she based her design on the same jitterbug of corner-connected squares, we should acknowledge that she didn’t really use our “simple” method. Instead of extruding her squares straight up into a set of parallel prisms, she used a flexing antiprism structure. In this way, she added a layer of complexity to her structure. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It simply means that her design is an outlier which doesn’t really support our “simple” thesis. (See also: Prism vs Antiprism)
Even when we limit ourselves to parallel arrangements of hinged prisms, however, it’s not so simple. Complexity is always right around the corner. You can extrude any polygon into a 3-dimansional prism and you are not confined to “regular” polygons.
Even when you confine yourself only to squares (depending on how many you connect together and at which corners) things can still get pretty complicated.
Researchers at the Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials, School of Engineering, RMIT University in Melbourne recently published a paper entitled Design of Hierarchical Structures for Synchronized Deformations.
They propose a method of creating “a new type of hierarchical structures.” Their video below shows us that fractal, self-similar arrangements are also possible!
1. Readers of patents will be familiar with that phrase “…and the like.” But I wonder what, exactly, is it supposed to mean in this context? Who do they have in mind is “like” a housewife? A house-husband? Or just any person who (in 1965) might have needed to set a hot dish on the table?