Hankook’s R&D department has been working with biorobotics experts from Seoul National University and Harvard engineers on a weird transforming origami wheel project. These folding oddities can drastically alter their diameter and carry heavy loads.
It’s taken nearly a decade to get to this point, but the team has got a fully functioning set of transforming wheels built and attached them to a couple of demonstration vehicles, demonstrating that the wheels can vary their diameter from 46 to 80 cm (18.1 to 31.5 in), while supporting enough weight to put a full-size vehicle on top.
The wheels are a three-layer construction based on a thick, flexible composite membrane designed to fold along similar lines to an origami waterbomb. To add structural strength and wear resistance, the non-folding panels are sandwiched with laser-cut aluminum facet panels, which hold most of the membrane rigid, with the exception of the fold lines.