Department of Mechanical Engineering

Brigham Young University 

Provo, UT 84602

(801) 422-2625

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ORIGAMI-INSPIRED  MECHANISMS

EXPLAINED

What is a mechanism?

A mechanism is a mechanical device used to transfer or transform motion, force, or energy. Mechanisms typically use links and pin joints to achieve their motion.

What is Origami?

Origami is the Japanese term for the ancient art of folding paper. It typically involves patterns of creases arranged to create shapes and forms. 

Paper is uniquely suited

Origami-Inspired Mechanisms

While originally used as an art and craft, it has evolved to be a valuable inspiration for engineered systems. The images below show how a practical, engineered system can be created using a simple origami pattern.

 

In the left image, the mechanism is modeled as a simple origami paper pattern. The right image shows the pattern adapted as a barrier that can fold flat and then be rapidly deployed.

Research was recently published on origami-inspired mechanism design in the journal Mechanical Sciences.
 

To allow motion, the mechanism's folding lines must operate similarly to the paper pattern regardless of hinge used. Origami-inspired mechanisms can be created from a wide variety of materials.  Below is an animation showing the evolution of an origami-inspired mechanism from paper prototype to finished design.

 
Advantages of Origami-Inspired Mechanisms

Prototyping is fast and cheap because it can be done with paper before using other materials. Instead of relying on laser cutting or 3D-printing, rapid prototyping is possible using only hands and paper.

Many resources and patterns already exist that can be adapted for engineering purposes. Books and papers have been written and published detailing how designs can be created and modified. Because it is such an ancient art, a lot of legwork has been done already. 

 

 
Challenges of Origami-Inspired Mechanisms

Thick folding, which is the application of origami principles to thick materials like wood or plastic, can prove challenging. This is because considerations must be taken for the flexible segments to deliver the same motion their paper counterparts could easily achieve. This creates unique challenges in the design of panel and hinges.  We (along with others) have discovered ways to overcome these challenges. 

 

Listed below are some of the publications showing some of the ways to create thick-folding origami:

Creating Linkage Permutations to Prevent Self-Intersection and Enable Deployable Networks of Thick-Origami

Alden Yellowhorse, Robert J. Lang, Kyler A. Tolman, Larry L. Howell

Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, Paper 12936

2018 August

 

An Origami-based Thickness-accommodating Bistable Mechanism in Monolithic Thick-sheet Materials

Nathan A Pehrson, Spencer P Magleby, Larry L Howell

Proceedings of the 4th IEEE/IFToMM International Conference on Reconfigurable Mechanisms & Robotics

2018 June

 

A Review of Thickness-Accommodation Techniques in Origami-Inspired Engineering

Robert J. Lang, Kyler A. Tolman, Erica Crampton, Spencer P. Magleby, Larry L. Howell

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Applied Mechanics Reviews

2018 February

 

Split-Vertex Technique for Thickness-Accommodation in Origami-Based Mechanisms

Kyler A. Tolman, Robert J. Lang, Spencer P. Magleby, Larry L. Howell

Proceedings of the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences

2017 August

 

Thick Rigidly Foldable Origami Mechanisms Based on Synchronized Offset Rolling Contact Elements

Robert J. Lang, Todd Nelson, Spencer Magleby, Larry Howell

ASME, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Vol. 9

2017 April

 

Introduction of monolithic origami with thick-sheet materials

Nathan A Pehrson, Spencer P Magleby, Larry L. Howell, Robert J. Lang

Proceedings of the IASS Annual Symposium 2016, Spatial Structures in the 21st Century

2016 September

 

Thick Rigidly Foldable Origami Mechanisms Based on Synchronized Offset Rolling Contact Elements

Robert J. Lang, Todd Nelson, Spencer Magleby, Larry Howell

Proceedings of the ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

2016 August

 

Towards Developing Product Applications of Thick Origami Using the Offset Panel Technique

Morgan, M.R., Lang, R.J., Magleby, S.P., Howell, L.L.

Mechanical Sciences, Vol. 7, pp. 69-77

2016 March

 

Thick Rigidly Foldable Structures Realized by an Offset Panel Technique

Edmondson, B.J., Lang, R.J., Morgan, M.R., Magleby, S.P., Howell, L.L.

Origami 6, Vol. 1, pp. 149-161

2015 December

 

Quantifying and Comparing Surrogate Fold Motions in Thick Sheet Materials

Allen, J.T., Magleby, S.P., Howell, L.L.

Proceedings of the ASME 2015 Conference on Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures and Intelligent Systems, SMASIS2015-9066

2015 September

 

An Offset Panel Technique for Thick Rigidly Foldable Origami

Edmondson, B.J., Lang, R.J., Magleby, S.P., Howell, L.L.

ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences

2014 September

 

Accommodating Thickness in Origami-Based Deployable Arrays

Zirbel, S.A., Lang, R.J., Thompson, M.W., Sigel, D.A., Walkemeyer, P.E., Trease, B.P. Magelby, S.P., Howell, L.L.

Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 135, Issue 11

2013 June