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Transform a thin sheet of Nitinol into a passive refreshable tactile display

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time: 3 days


This tutorial demonstrates how to program a thin sheet of Nitinol into a passive reconfigurable tactile display at Braille resolution. The fabrication process can be adapted to create various pixel designs of different shapes and sizes depending on the application. In addition to the tutorial, at the bottom you will find a simple method to serendipitously explore the design and interaction space using paper, before engaging in the fabrication process.


Pre-requisite and background topics

Prior to starting the tutorial, you can try to familiarise yourself with the following topics:


Materials and equipment required

  1. Nitinol sheet (0.3mm)

  2. Fibre Laser cutter

  3. Electric Furnace (to heat above 550ºC)

  4. Water bath

  5. Steel wire (0.25mm diameter)

  6. Foam sheet / Soft base

  7. Tweezers



  1. Design an array of U-shaped flaps to be laser cut on Nitinol

  2. Bend the flaps by pushing them out on foam sheet

  3. Constrain the flaps in the bend position by inserting a small wire between the flap and the sheet. One method is to cut small wires of 3cm, bend them into a U shape and insert them between the open flap and the base sheet.

  4. Place this fixture in a furnace at 500ºC for 30 minutes

  5. Quench it in a water bath

  6. Place the fixture again in the furnace at 550ºC for 48 hours

  7. Let the fixture cool inside the furnace

  8. Remove the wires

  9. Test


Variations and things to try

Before engaging with Nitinol, explore the solution space by mimicking the tactile effect with card paper.

  1. Alternative pixel shapes

  2. Alternative pixel sizes

  3. Alternative pixel orientations

  4. Alternative pixel patterns

  5. Size of the display

  6. Applications


Post-requisite topics and Going beyond

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