What if you were stranded on an island with just sheets of paper to keep you occupied? If you’re an origami expert, you could build a ship and sail away. No, not just a paper boat, but a full-fledged ship!
Origami – the Japanese art of folding paper squares into works of art – is more than just a leisure activity. Scientists have used origami techniques to solve numerous complex problems of science and technology.
The rules of origami are simple. Use a single sheet of paper to create any shape that you want – without cutting, tearing or using glue.
Origins of Origami
Oru means “to fold” and kami means “paper” in Japanese. Since paper was invented in China, origami historians argue that paper folding was also invented by the Chinese during the 1st century. Buddhist monks brought paper into Japan in the 6th century and along with it, the art of paper folding.
The Japanese transferred the knowledge orally from one generation to another. It was only in the 18th century that the first written origami instruction book – Thousand Crane Folding – appeared in Japan.
The standard origami diagrams that we see now were developed by Yoshizawa Akira (the grandmaster of origami) and Sam Randlett.
The following is a video showing how to make the ever famous origami crane.
Origami and Math
The geometry of origami is a much researched field and has considerable applications. One such application involves rigid origami. Rigid origami makes shapes without bends or twists between the crease lines. By replacing paper with sheet metal and creases with hinges, the model could still be folded up and applied to other industries.
In industrial designs, robots are used to ensure precise folding manufacturing of stiff cardboard or metal boxes and rigid origami designs are used to ensure that they fold up properly. This prevents costly mistakes when boxes are to be produced in huge numbers.
“Origami helps in the study of mathematics and science in many ways,” says Martin Kruskal, a mathematician at Rutgers University, “Using origami anyone can become a scientific experimenter with no fuss.”
Origami and computation
Erik Demaine, one of Popular Science Magazine’s Brilliant Ten, uses origami shapes in his computer science lab to solve complex mathematical problems. According to an article that appeared in the magazine, Demaine studies the shape by uploading it into the computer and erasing all the paper so that only the fold outlines remain. This skeleton is then used to create fluid art forms.
Computational origami can be used to determine the precise kind of folds that need to be made to solve complex engineering problems such as folding a large shape to fit onto a flat surface without having to cut it. Computational origami is what is behind the design of air bags, which are neatly folded to fit into a tiny compartment in the car.
Origami and Technology
Folding provides creative solutions to real world problems in medicine, space, electronics and various other fields.
The Eyeglass is a telescope that is 40 times bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is not in space yet, but a prototype was built with a lens that could be folded neatly to allow easy transportation in a rocket. Dr. Robert J. Lang, physicist and origami artist, applied origami concepts to help build the prototype.
Dr. Lang talks about the most amazing application of origami in a recent email
“I think the most amazing application has been its usage in deployable structures in space. This was pioneered by Koryo Miura, who developed a solar array based on an origami fold, which flew on a Japanese mission in 1995. Since then, various folding structures have been investigated for solar sails, telescopes, and the like.”
The Miura map fold, invented by the Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura, is a rigid origami fold used in solar panel arrays of space satellites.
Researchers at the Oxford University have also used origami in the practice of medicine. They developed a heart stent which can open up a blocked artery. The tricky part was to transport the stent to the required spot through the blood vessels without injuring them. This was accomplished by folding the stent during the journey and opening it up only when it reached the destination.
Origami is an art as well as science. It can create marvellous sculptures and also design anything from foldable tents to telescope lenses the size of a football field.
Once you learn origami, you will never look at a piece of paper the same way again.
By: Nisha Salim