FAB14 Workshop:
Digital Mechanical Material by Design
a physicist approach

I will introduce fundamental principles of mechanical metamaterials that have unusual mechanical properties thanks to their structure. These will be illustrated using visual and hands-on examples.

Workshop info:
conference: FAB14 - Day: 2018-07-20 - Start time: 14:30 - Duration: 04:30 - Room: CARAVELLE - SL4
Speaker : Denis Terwagne (thanks to the development team)


Mechanical metamaterials are materials that have unusual mechanical properties thanks to their structure rather than their microscopic composition. Digital fabrication has recently given the tools to physicists, mathematicians, engineers and designers to explore these kinds of new materials. These smart materials open the path to materials in which we can pre-program the way they deform or they behave. In this workshop, I would like to show some fundamental and recent discoveries in the field of mechanical metamaterials. Although the example I chose to present have been flavored by the scientific community, they are often inspired from artistic or nature's work. I will give to this workshop a very hands-on and visual flavor to convey the key messages. These will be illustrated by building origami and kirigami foldings and by manipulating experimental and physical models. In the future, these might inspire new practice in mechanical design.


  1. Explore the different types of mechanical materials, and choose one.
  2. Use a design software (inkscape, illustrator, openscad, ...) to design digital mechanical building blocks (folds, hinges, elastic beams,... )
  3. Fabricate a functional building block. Check the design rules.
  4. Design and fabricate a structure that is made of a combination of building blocks (stretchable, bistable or auxetics). The structure has to do something unexpected when deform/compressed.

Mechanical Metamaterials

The goal of this workshop is to make mechanical metamaterials that are made of mechanical building blocks. The mechanical functions of these structures are not only given by the instrinsinc properties of the material but by their geometrical structure.

Exploring these classes of structures is really eased by digital fabrication. The design of these structure can be made parametrically which allow us to fabricate a large variety of test samples and explore physically the complete space parameters. It's unleashing the power of numerical simulation in the physical world (this is a real revolution in how problems are tackled in Science).

One kind of mechanical metamaterials can be made with kirigami. Kirigami is simply a sheet folding in which there are cuts. When the 2D structure is stretched, it deforms in a particular way: it can expand, retract, rotate, move out of plane,...

There are different types of mechanical metamaterials that you will discover by browsing this website and the following youtube channel :

Ressources and Development Team

Workshop development team: Pierre-Brice Bintein, Axel Cornu, Nicolas Decoster, Victor Levy, Denis Terwagne

This workshop is a continuation of a group project made during the Fab Academy 2018 @FablabULB and in relation to scientific research happening @trioS.lab both at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium)
Pattern generator scripts were made by Nicolas Decoster during Fab Academy 2018 (link)

Scientific litterature references: