Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, has been revolutionized by scientists and engineers who have been exploring its potential as a way to create compliant and deployable mechanisms. Compliant mechanisms are structures that are capable of undergoing large deformations without breaking, and deployable mechanisms are structures that can change from a compact form to a functional form. At the Compliant Mechanisms Research Lab here at BYU, we develop origami-based compliant mechanisms for numerous different purposes.
In the past, origami has been used mainly for recreational purposes or as a form of decoration. However, in recent years, origami has gained recognition for its potential in a wide range of applications, including engineering, robotics, and architecture. One of the main benefits of origami is its ability to fold into complex three-dimensional shapes, making it a promising candidate for creating mechanisms that can be compactly stored and then deployed when needed.
The first major breakthrough in the field of origami-inspired engineering came in the late 1990s, when a group of researchers at MIT developed the first "Miura-ori" fold pattern, which is now widely recognized as the simplest and most efficient way to fold a flat sheet of paper into a compact form. The Miura-ori pattern has since been used in our lab as a basis for creating a wide range of origami-based structures, including deployable antennas, solar panels, and even satellites.
One of the most exciting areas of research in the field of origami-inspired engineering is the creation of "compliant mechanisms." Compliant mechanisms are structures that can change shape or form without relying on external actuators, such as motors or springs. Instead, they rely on their own flexible material properties, which allow them to bend, twist, or deform in response to external forces. The BYU CMR lab has done emense amounts of research in this field. Some examples are listed here.
One of the main benefits of compliant mechanisms is their ability to withstand high levels of stress and strain without breaking. This makes them ideal for use in a variety of applications, including robotics, aerospace, and biomedical devices. For example, compliant mechanisms have been used to create soft robots that are capable of moving and adapting to their environment in a more natural and efficient way than traditional robots.
Another key area of research in the field of origami-inspired engineering is the development of "deployable mechanisms." Deployable mechanisms are structures that can change from a compact form to a functional form when needed. This can be achieved through a variety of folding patterns, including the Miura-ori pattern and other more complex origami designs.
One of the most exciting applications of deployable mechanisms is in the field of satellite technology. Origami-inspired structures can be used to create satellites that can be stored in a compact form for launch and then deployed when in orbit. This can greatly reduce the size and weight of the satellite, allowing it to be launched more easily and cost-effectively.
In recent years, a number of researchers have been working on developing new folding patterns and algorithms for creating origami-inspired structures. These advancements have been made possible by the use of computer-aided design (CAD) tools and sophisticated simulations, which allow researchers to explore and test new designs in a virtual environment.
In conclusion, origami has come a long way from its traditional roots as a form of art and decoration as scientists and engineers at BYU have been exploring its potential as a way to create compliant and deployable mechanisms. Researchers are continually advancing the field of origami-inspired engineering and discovering new ways to harness its unique properties for practical use. The future of origami-inspired engineering looks bright, and it will be exciting to see the new and innovative applications that emerge as the field continues to evolve thanks to the help of the BYU CMR lab.