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Planes, boats, flowers, cranes… Who has not ever folded a sheet of paper to make a figure for mere entertainment?


However, the reality is that Origami, beyond its artistic and entertainment capabilities, has enormous technological potential that is making it the basis of some important innovations.

In this way, after years of effort and research by engineers, physicists, artists, designers and mathematicians, a relationship between technology and this art is being achieved, in order to develop practical applications.

Clothing, furniture, robots, vehicles and even spacecraft are beginning to be developed today, based on the Origami technique. Therefore, in this blog post, we are going to talk about this type of paper engineering and its applications in the design of new technologies.

The ancient art of origami

First of all, let's start by defining what is Origami ?. It is a word of Japanese origin (Oru: fold and Kami: paper) which literally means to fold paper. In Spanish it is called origami, a term composed of papyrus, "paper", and flexus, "to fold".

Origami, in its origin, had a ceremonial and religious sense in ancient Japan. From the noshi, (types of paper offerings made for certain celebrations), the basic forms and diagrams of Origami figures are derived.

It later developed as a hobby and therapeutic resource, even attracting the attention of scientists. And, although it may seem a simple technique, the degree of complexity it can reach, makes some of its creations require days of work and a lot of ingenuity.

In traditional origami, scissors and glue are not used, only the possibilities of paper and hand expertise. The particularity of this technique lies in the transformation of paper (two-dimensional element), in three-dimensional shapes of different sizes and complexities.

Today it is part of the techniques used in paper engineering, thanks to its almost unfathomable potential. Can such an artisanal art then have an effect on today's world?

Science and art in oneself

Since its origins, origami was studied by mathematicians and scientists as a valuable resource for learning geometry, since when you fold a paper lines, segments, angles, polygons and three-dimensional figures are drawn.

By adopting this approach, the field of origami research can be broadened and various problems addressed, thus making origami the basis for applications from various technological sectors.

Next we will talk about some current applications (and some rather futuristic), origami in design and science.

Light as a butterfly, but strong as a tiger

In the simplicity of origami, really lies its strength, so starting from algorithms with basic folds, complex and very resistant structures can be achieved, which applied to other materials, preserve the advantages and properties of origami.

In this way, beverage cans, product packaging, lamps, clothing, or chairs are being reinvented, such as the one designed by the German studio Fuchs + Funke, which was even exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in Luxembourg.

The design consists of a cardboard strip that, after a few folds, is transformed into a light chair weighing no more than two kilos, which preserves the beauty and aesthetics of origami.

… So strong that it is capable of stopping a bullet

A real problem of the police (among other agencies) is the ability to keep their officers safe in the face of an armed confrontation. Mainly because the current shields and bulletproof protection systems are very bulky and heavy.

Therefore, considering the lightness and strength in origami structures, a group of engineers and researchers in the United States, has developed an ultra-portable and lightweight bulletproof shield that bends according to origami.

The origami shield is composed of 12 layers of Kevlar and an aluminum layer in the center, capable of stopping various calibers of bullets. In addition to its ingenious structure, it allows a quick deployment in those moments in which every second counts.

So versatile to improve the present…

We have already addressed with the previous examples, the strength that an origami structure allows. However, its compaction properties are also generating significant developments in areas such as biomedicine.

After much research and development, a team of researchers from MIT, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a small origami robot capable of configuring itself, moving and even swimming.

And it is as curious as practical, because it could be an alternative to perform small interventions (such as removing objects), without the need to perform surgery. The possibilities are many.

… And so versatile to shape the future

Aeronautics is also very interested in studying the possible uses of origami in its sector. Well, origami could provide solutions for a recurring problem, how to optimize the space of the ships during a launch?

There are several NASA projects with the aim of reducing up to ten times the size of solar panels. The idea is to use the principles of origami in the panels to be deployed once in space. Thus reducing costs and risks of damage.

When the paper is folded, the mind wakes up

The rise of origami applications to the world of design and science is becoming increasingly diversified.

Robotics, mathematics and biology already use origami in the design of products and solutions to various unknowns. Its application is breaking down the boundaries between worlds so far apart, through creativity to solve problems.

Origami works in design and also as a base element for other innovative bets. Do you have a creative project that needs another approach? We help you bring it to life! Our design and concept art service has no limits and neither do your ideas. Us!

What does the future hold for us in this field? Will we have smartphones that will unfold when using them? Will we be able to work at the level of atoms? Will it help us conquer space?

Don't forget to leave your comments.

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