• March 19, 2019, 5:51 a.m.

    I just learned today about the Compliant Mechanisms Research lab at Brigham Young University and the amazing work they've done for NASA, medical science, and so many other industries. It's potential applications for mass production consumer products have only just barely begun.

    Resources:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=97t7Xj_iBv0

    www.compliantmechanisms.byu.edu/

    It also seems like the kind of thing that AI would be really good at designing. And if we are to assume AI will only continue playing a bigger and bigger role in engineering, it's inevitable that AI will suggest designs using flexible compliant mechanisms in a big way.

    How should compliant mechanisms change our idea of what the future looks like?

    What futuristic super-structures might have strange oragami-shaped designs that we could have never thought of?

    Do you think it only has niche applications that won't really change our idea of the future at all?

    I think it's really hard to say where this tech is going to go, but I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Moderator
    March 19, 2019, 7:40 a.m.

    That's very interesting, because we ourselves are made out of flexible mechanical parts. I can see all sorts of useful applications for this technology - an obvious candidate would be cybernetics.

  • March 19, 2019, 6:55 p.m.

    That's awesome! I hadn't thought of that. What about exoskeletons, bodysuits, etc?

    I'm always very cautious to agree with perspectives about the future that put human beings in the same sort of soldier role that we've always seen them in, but they are fun to think about. I'm wondering how different an exosuit in a story like Halo, The Forever War, or Starship Troopers might look if it heavily used flexible materials.

    Could make for some really unique looking space suits.

  • March 19, 2019, 9:28 p.m.

    One criticism or specification I have for flexible machinery is that in some of the examples shown in the video, it does limit certain capabilities of those devices in order to add value in some other way.

    With the vice grip specifically, the flexible substitute is not able to adjust the grip ratio, nor does it have the lock and release mechanism that a metal vise grip has.

    With a more advanced design of the flexible vice grip, maybe you could replicate those functions. especially if you start to integrate certain synthetic materials that may change property is based on perhaps electric or magnetic fields. And there's no reason why you can't use metal components in conjunction with flexible components in order to leverage the strengths of both designs.

  • Moderator
    March 20, 2019, 1:17 a.m.

    I think epic power armor is one of those sci-fi tropes that has little actual application in reality, especially if we are faced with smart weapons and cybernetically-enhanced soldiers. Sure, something like that might be invented for a specific situation, but the soldier wearing it would play-out a niche battlefield role. True that most combat roles outside of basic infantry sections are niche, but power-suits moreso. I'd consider them to play a role similar to tanks or light armor reconnaissance vehicles on the battlefield.

    If they were made out of those ultra-strong, highly flexible carbon miracle metamaterials like graphene or diamondoid and utilized flexible mechanics in their design, then someone encased in that powersuit would be practically invulnerable from most physical harm (barring attacks from nanomaterials or special high-energy rays). For this reason, it seems like power-suits would be more useful as hazard-gear or EVAsuits, especially if we consider how engineers propose to power the suits. Batteries might not be powerful or efficient enough, so a application like EVA would be more convenient since most EVA suits are connected and tethered to a space-module.

  • March 28, 2019, 5:58 p.m.

    This is eerily similar in some concepts to a script I worked on this morning, with vehicles or engines "transforming" from one type to another, which would absolutely require advancements in folding technology. I honestly don't see humans capable of such this century without the help of gen2 AI. Look out in May for the episode to drop, I am not a fan of dropping spoilers