A patient student can fold a paper airplane in about three minutes. For a set of wheels that figure is multiplied by almost two million.
Together with an international team specialising in Biorobotics, a South Korean manufacturer has developed a set of unfoldable wheels. For reinforcement the team used thick, flexible composite membranes along with aluminium parts.
If the wheel centre is compressed horizontally with an axle actuator, the wheels unfold from 46 to 80 cm in diameter – just like a round paper lantern.
With both diameters the tread is capable of supporting an entire vehicle. The futuristic wheels could be used in extreme off-road environments.
For rovers exploring foreign planets, maybe, or for small robots.