Designing a Pop-Up Future

January 28, 2016

Various shapes made from Miura-ori pattern (Image courtesy of Mahadevan Lab)

Origami describes rules for creating folded structures from patterns on a flat sheet, but does not prescribe how patterns can be designed to fit target shapes. In an article in Nature Materials*, Prof. L. Mahadevan and colleagues from SEAS and University of Tokyo describe their use of origami folds, or tessellations, to program curvature for creating various pop-up objects.

Starting from the simplest periodic origami pattern that yields one-degree-of-freedom collapsible structures, the team shows that scale-independent elementary geometric constructions and constrained optimization algorithms can be used to determine spatially modulated patterns that yield approximations to given surfaces of constant or varying curvature. Paper models confirm the feasibility of the calculations.

The scientists also assess the difficulty of realizing these geometric structures by quantifying the energetic barrier that separates the metastable flat and folded states. Moreover, they characterize the trade-off between the accuracy to which the pattern conforms to the target surface, and the effort associated with creating finer folds. This approach enables the tailoring of origami patterns to drape complex surfaces independent of absolute scale, as well as the quantification of the energetic and material cost of doing so.

*See L.H. Dudte, E. Vouga, T. Tachi & L. Mahadevan, "Programming curvature using origami tessellations," Nature Materials (2016) doi:10.1038/nmat4540.

Also read the press release, "Designing a Pop-Up Future," by Leah Burrows.