Forward and inverse design of programmable surfaces from knitted active textiles

Atharva Mahabaleshwarkar, Evan Harris, Julianna Abel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Programmable surfaces and structures are mechanisms that transition between two or more geometric configurations. Programmable surfaces capable of altering their topology with a change in operational conditions have the potential to enable a wide range of applications in a variety of domains like haptics, wearables, human-computer interactions, fluid-surface interactions, and shape morphing structures. Prior research on programmable surfaces has developed various techniques to realize shape change applications. 4D printing includes multi-material printing of mechanisms that transform from any 1D or a 2D shape into a 3D shape using simple energy inputs like heat, water, or light. Additionally, origami composite structures with selective actuation of shape memory polymers also afford complex shape changes. We present a novel approach to designing programmable surfaces by incorporating shape memory alloys (SMA) and textile manufacturing processes to form variable topology programmable surfaces from knitted active textiles. Thermally responsive shape memory alloys (SMAs) leverage solid-state phase transformations and the shape memory effect to return the material to a predetermined state upon heating. The shape memory effect enables creation of multi-stiffness SMA configurations that can be utilized to develop structures with tunable surface topographies. Active knitted textiles act as programmable surfaces by transforming from an inactive 2D flat surface in the cold, flexible martensite state into active 3D surfaces when heated above the austenite finish transformation temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationActive and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems XV
EditorsJae-Hung Han, Gang Wang, Shima Shahab
ISBN (Electronic)9781510640054
StatePublished - Mar 22 2021
EventActive and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems XV 2021 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Mar 22 2021Mar 26 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferenceActive and Passive Smart Structures and Integrated Systems XV 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 SPIE. All rights reserved.


  • Active textiles
  • Programmable surfaces
  • Shape memory alloys


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