Energy absorption devices are widely used to mitigate damage from collisions and impact loads. Due to the inherent uncertainty of possible impact characteristics, passive energy absorbers with fixed mechanical properties are not capable of serving in versatile application scenarios. Here, we explore a deployable design concept where origami tubes can extend, lock, and are intended to absorb energy through crushing (buckling and plasticity). This system concept is unique because origami deployment can increase the crushing distance between two impacting bodies and can tune the energy absorption characteristics. We show that the stiffness, peak crushing force, and total energy absorption of the origami tubes all increase with the deployed state. We present numerical and experimental studies that investigate these tunable behaviors under both static and dynamic scenarios. The energy-absorbing performance of the deployed origami tubes is slightly better than conventional prismatic tubes in terms of total absorbed energy and peak force. When the origami tubes are only partially deployed, they exhibit a nearly elastic collapse behavior; however, when they are locked in a more deployed configuration, they can experience non-recoverable crushing with higher energy absorption. Parametric studies reveal that the geometric design of the tube can control the nonlinear relationship between energy absorption and deployment. A physical model shows the potential of the self-locking after deployment. This concept for deployable energy-absorbing origami tubes can enable future protective systems with on-demand properties for different impact scenarios.
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