researchers explore potential of origami for large foldable structures 
(above)  glaucio paulino, georgia tech professor and evgueni filipov, illinois gradaute researcher
all images courtesy of university of illinois






researchers from the university of illinois at urbana-champaign, the georgia institute of technology and the university of tokyo have developed a new ‘zippered tube’ configuration that makes paper forms that are stiff enough to hold weight, yet can fold flat for shipping and storing. the method could be applied to other thin materials, from plastics to metals, to transform structures from furniture to buildings to microscopic robots. 

university-of-illinois-origami-structures-designboom-02the team uses paper prototypes to demonstrate how the thin flexible sheet




evgueni filipov illinois graduate researcher, glaucio paulino georgia tech professor and tomohiro tachi assistant professor at university of tokyo, published their project in the proceedings of the national academy of sciences. the group used a particular origami technique called miura-ori that make precise zigzag strips of paper. while the single strip of paper is highly flexible, the tube layering is stiffer and does not fold in as many directions. 

university-of-illinois-origami-structures-designboom-03the zipper configuration works with tubes that have different angles of folding




the configuration works even with tubes that have different angles of folding. by combining different geometries they can make many different 3D structures, such as a bridge, a canopy or a tower. the team of researchers used paper prototypes to demonstrate how thin, flexible sheets can be folded into functional structures. larger scale applications could integrate metal or plastic panels with hinges. 

university-of-illinois-origami-structures-designboom-04they found interlocking two tubes in zipper-like fashion made it stiffer




the next step is to explore new blends of tubes with different folding angles to build new structures. they also hope to apply their techniques to other materials and explore applications from large scale construction to microscopic structures for biomedical devices or robotics.


video courtesy of university of illinois


university-of-illinois-origami-structures-designboom-05zigzag-folded strips of paper


university-of-illinois-origami-structures-designboom-06the project has potential for quick-assembling emergency shelters