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FoldIOs: Making shape-changing foldable objects interactive by printed electronics


“Foldios” are interactive 3D objects folded of a thin sheet of plastics, paper or cardboard, which can sense user input such as touch or deformation and provide visual or actuated system output through customized printed electronic components that are embedded within the foldable structure.


Custom 3D shaped and shape-changing interfaces are typically fabricated with 3D printing or by manual assembly of different parts and components.

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While 3D printing enables complex geometries to be printed in a single pass, the interactivity of the objects is very limited. In contrast, manual assembly allows for adding input and output components, such as off-the-shelf touch sensors and displays. However, standard components heavily restrict the possible shapes of interactive objects, as standard components are typically available in only a few sizes, mostly rectangular, planar and rigid. Moreover, mechanical assembly can quickly become complex and time-consuming.


Our approach presents a novel and unique design and fabrication way to create these interactive 3D objects in a single printing-plus-folding pass by tackling several challenges: it does not require the designer to create a non-intuitive and possibly complex 2D crease patterns or to specify low-level circuit designs for the electronic components. Instead, an algorithmic pipeline enables the user to design the object in 3D using standard CAD and to add high-level interactive controls to the 3D model by means of standardized parametric sensor layouts.


  • Novel fabrication pipeline: easily create foldable interactive 3D-shaped objects
  • Synergy: use the benefits of printed electronics combined with folding features
  • Intuitive: implement interactive features by manipulating 3D-objects via CAD
  • Convenient: neither manual translation to 2D crease patterns nor design of low level circuitry required
  • Sensor model kit: functionalize objects by using standardized parametric sensor patterns


  • packaging
  • customized and functionalized greeting card
  • handicraft and teaching

Universität des Saarlandes Wissens- und Technologietransfer GmbH

Dr. Christof Schäfer
0681 302-6383
Universität des Saarlandes Wissens- und Technologietransfer GmbH, Campus, Gebäude A1 1
66123 Saarbrücken




  • EP 16787798 anhängig
  • US 15/770,114 anhängig

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