The Japanese art of folding paper allows one to take a flat material and turn it into a structurally sound, three-dimensional object. While the technique does involve some basic understanding of how a series of creases and folds can be modified into a new shape, the resulting forms are limited only by the imagination and skill of the creator.


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It’s no wonder that such a practice intrigues and inspires artists and engineers alike. This includes researchers in Illinois, Georgia, and Tokyo, who have used an origami technique to create ultra supportive and easily compacted structures that may improve a range of existing technologies and structures.

Credit. Andreas Bauer

The Rise Of The Zippered Tube
The notable structure is being called the “zippered tube”. The angular, boxy zigzag shape was designed by researchers at UIUC, Georgia Tech, and the University of Tokyo through a technique known as Miura-ori folding. Unlike conventional origami shapes such as the popular crane, the zippered tube is not made from just one folded structure, but instead consists of two or more interlocked tubes. Individually, these tubes are quite flexible, but together they can create a strong, reliable lightweight structure.

A Structure For Many Settings
Most of the zippered tube prototypes have been created using paper, but using metal, plastic, or composites to create the same structure opens up a whole world of potential uses. Nano scale robotics, biomedical devices, buildings and bridges are just a few applications the zippered tube could play a role. The concept may even have a future in space, and NASA could use the structure to create easily transported and raised structures that may be useful on Mars and the Moon.

Credit: Jacek Halicki

Ancient Art Meets Future Technology 
As we’ve also seen origami principals applied to other prototypes, including temporary shelters, foldable drones, and solar-panels that expand like flowers, the ancient art may play a key role in future technology, the way it’s build, transported, and utilized. Has this trend for more compact and modular structures had an impact on your industry? Has it made you rethink the structure of some of your products? Comment and tell us what you think.

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