A transdisciplinary collaboration among architects, engineers, and biologists at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) studied the pollination mechanism of the Bird-of-Paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) and developed Flectofin®, a hingeless louver system that is capable of shifting its fin 90 degrees by inducing bending stresses in the spine caused by displacement of a support or change of temperature in the lamina.
Plants bend and move without the use of hinges. These movements are reversible and work within the elastic/visco-elastic range of their materials. The Bird-of-Paradise relies on sunbirds to pollinate it. The flower is aligned perpendicular to the stalk, providing a perching spot for the birds. When a bird lands, its weight pulls down the bottom two petals, causing a bending motion that reveals the anthers where the pollen is. The pollen covers the bird’s feet while it’s feeding on nectar, and then it flies off to another flower where the pollen gets deposited on that plant’s pistil.The researchers carefully studied the plants’ strategy and abstracted the design principles needed to apply to their hingeless structure.
The use of hingeless mechanical systems reduces the amount of maintenance commonly associated with interactive facade systems. It can be created using 3D printing, can be produced with one and the same material and within a single rapid manufacturing process. It allows for a continuously adjustable operating angle between 0 and 90 degrees, and with alterations, from -90 to +90 degrees, meaning it can flip in both directions.