Compliant mechanisms are useful for improving existing machines and creating new ones that were not previously possible. They also help us to think of new methods and technologies needed to both improve existing systems as well as manufacture systems that have not been done before. The purpose of this thesis is to show novel implementations of compliant mechanisms into folding systems, and to show new methods for fabricating such mechanisms with nontraditional materials and on difficult scales. Folding systems are shown in furniture applications with chairs, stools, and childcare furniture applications as results of research into how such structures could be created with compliant mechanisms to be deployed from a flat state. Compliant mechanisms are also shown to be folded by a laser into simple mechanisms and into a potentially more complex parabolic reflector. Small-scale flexible (or compliant) mechanisms are valuable in replacing rigid components while retaining comparable motion and behavior. However, fabricating such mechanisms on this scale (from 0.01 to 10 cm thick) proves difficult, especially with thin sheet metals. The manufacturing method of laser forming, which uses a laser to cut and bend metal into desired shapes, could facilitate this fabrication. However, specific methods for designing mechanisms formed by lasers need to be developed. This work presents laser forming as a means for creating compliant mechanisms on this scale with thin sheet metal. The unique challenges for designing mechanisms to be laser-formed are explored, and new adaptations of existing designs are fabricated and discussed. The design of basic "building blocks" and features are developed for several mechanisms: a parallel-guided mechanism, a cross-axis flexural pivot, a LET joint array, a split-tube flexure, and a bi-stable switch. These mechanisms are shown to perform repeatable behavior and motion comparable to existing non-laser-formed versions. The further possibilities for fabricating compliant mechanisms with laser forming are explored, as advanced applications can benefit from using lasers to create compliant mechanisms from thin sheet metal. One such possible system is a parabolic reflector, which is useful for making solar collectors and antennas. Such shapes have been developed in various patterns and typically manufactured out of rigid components. Applications for these systems could benefit from paraboloids that can fold up and be deployed into a final shape. This work presents a conceptual method for designing a flat-foldable paraboloid and a means for its fabrication using laser forming.



College and Department

Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





compliant mechanisms, laser forming, origami-inspired, folding furniture



Included in

Engineering Commons