Not many painters can boast having their paintings on display in space. Few musicians compose pieces that assist in surgeries. Architects typically don’t design popular fashion products. But there is a hobby or passion of sorts that has its fingers in all these cookie jars: origami.
David Morgan, professor of industrial design at Brigham Young University, worked with a team of professors and students from the BYU Compliant Mechanisms Research lab to apply origami principles to engineering and design. The book, Y Origami? Explorations in Folding, is compiled of examples of origami working to enhance engineering designs, and is a collaboration between the CMR and the Wasatch Design Collective, Morgan's research group. The book itself came about from an exhibit in the BYU Museum of Art that was on display in 2015 and is a prime example of the wide variety of things that can be created using origami folding techniques.
Among other significant achievements, the CMR research lab has been getting attention for its bullet-proof origami shield used to protect police officers. When asked what his favorite design projects were, Morgan, straight away said the ballistic barrier.
“The ballistic barrier got a lot of attention because it’s really cool to see something stop bullets,” Morgan said. “The [barrier] material is layers of Kevlar, like twelve layers of Kevlar and then it has an outside cover. There are stiff panels in some sections and none in other sections, so the Kevlar can fold. The stiff panels have a layer of aluminum in them to keep them rigid, so the whole thing can collapse and fit in the trunk of a car.”
And that’s just one example of the amazing feats of engineering and design displayed in this book about origami.
“Origami is a good word to use because everyone knows what it is, but we don’t really stick to the rules of origami,” said David Morgan. “It’s more about folding and folding’s so useful because it’s a transformative process. So I have this thing and I can transform it; I don’t waste anything, I don’t have to add anything, it’s really simple. And if you can do it out of folding, it’s really cool.”
There are simple and complex ways to fold things and that means math. Y Origami?, which was the number one new release in its category on Amazon over Christmas 2017, contains some basic math just by way of explanation for some of the design applications and can be used by K-12 teachers for fun, origami-based math experiences.
But this math leads to bigger and better things. The first and largest section of the book is Origami-based Design. It details the folding theory behind the deployable solar array, the ballistic barrier, the collapsible camp stove, and other products that were improved by folding.
The other sections include Learning Activities, Advanced Activities and New Origami done by students who participated in creating the book.
One participant, Jared Butler, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering, worked with the CMR group. He said that his experience organizing the images and text, editing the text and participating in research on the projects was a privilege.
“I am incredibly proud of Y Origami? as it represents countless hours of work on many projects from my colleagues. The potential of origami to create solutions to engineering problems is immense, and Y Origami? presents many examples of this in an elegant and compelling manner,” Butler said.
The book not only presents examples of solutions to engineering problems, it also has the potential to inspire minds to create new solutions.
“There’s a whole audience of young people that I hope this book reaches, because origami is fun, right? To make little paper animals. But problem-solving origami is great,” Morgan said. “If we can get people thinking about origami as a strategy for making things and for solving problems, who knows what will be created?”
BYU Photo & Sydney Staker