Hankook’s R&D department has developed shape-shifting wheels in collaboration with bio robotic experts from Seoul National University and engineers from Harvard. The new origami wheels could change their structure to best suit the terrain they run on.
The process to develop these futuristic shape-shifting wheels started about a decade ago, only now to reach a final prototype that has already been tested on several vehicles. These shape-shifting origami wheels can shift their diameter while bearing a load of a whole vehicle on top.
The wheels are made of a thick, flexible material based on three layers overall. Adding to their strength and durability, its non-folding panels are sandwiched with laser-cut aluminum facet panels keeping its membrane rigid and firm in one position, leaving the only exception are its folding lines.
The internal locking plates are to add extra rigidity and firmness to the wheel. Simultaneously, it could collapse to a minimum diameter and could increase to a maximum diameter as desired by the user.
The new wheels were first tested with a lab demo platform and then with a wrangler jeep. The wheels’ incorporated pressure plates allow pushing outwards on the inner hub walls to alter the diameter of the shape-shifting wheels.
The shape-shifting gives the wheels the advantage to duck under obstacles or go at high speeds with the increased height state. Earlier prototypes of origami wheels had incorporated bars that fold out at different settings.
These shape-shifting origami wheels couldn’t be incorporated to be used with everyday vehicles, rather would suit for special utilization such as in planetary rovers, where scientists don’t know much about the surface they’d roll on. These wheels come with transformable tech that allows them to suit the surface. These could roll on soft surfaces like sand and shift to the wider setting to go on rocky surfaces.
Have a look at the shape-shifting wheels in the video below.