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Earwig Origami

March 28, 2018

Engineers are learning new folding tricks by studying earwig wings.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Earwig engineering. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In a ranking of most popular insects, with butterflies and ladybugs somewhere near the top, earwigs would probably rank close to the bottom– just above maybe mosquitoes and cockroaches. But engineers have some love for the pincer-butted little guys. In the journal Science, material scientist André Studart at ETH Zurich and his colleagues report that the earwig wing is a masterpiece of design, folding up like the most elegant origami.

ANDRÉ STUDART (ETH Zurich):

It does that very quickly, without any muscles within the wing.

HIRSHON:

When open, he says the wing can lock in place. Studart and his colleagues report mimicking the design on a 3D printer, using a combination of rigid and flexible materials. Their goal is to scale up the technology, for use in robotics, biomedical devices and spacecraft. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon