Origami is probably something you associate with your childhood, when you’d spend hours making paper creations. However, the ancient Japanese technique could be used as an element of structural engineering. Could this development mean that we will soon be seeing people in civil engineering jobs in Cumbria bending and tearing paper to create usable structures?
A team of researchers based at the University of Tokyo and Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois, have designed a new structure and support method that has been inspired by origami. The zipper tubes consist of long tubes that have zigzagged creases.
As an individual item, these are flexible tubes that can be bent to form a U-shape. However, when a number of the tubes are joined together, they create an extremely strong arrangement. This creates a stiff structure that is no longer able to be bent or twisted. The prototype built by the researchers used paper, but it could be adapted to use thin pieces of plastic or metal, which would increase the number of applications it would be suitable for.
The way the structure is folded follows similar practices to those used in origami, where the paper is turned into a square that can be closed or opened using one quick motion. Through the creases the material is made stronger, and it takes on a mechanical property. This enables it to be folded down for storage and transportation and also expanded when required. The method is perfect for use when space is an issue.
The technique was first used by an astrophysicist who was exploring ways to create compact satellites and solar panels. However, it could have other uses, including structures for civil engineering projects that could be pre-assembled and then shipped to the required location. In the future we could see those with civil engineering jobs in Cumbria using the ancient art of origami to improve the distribution process.
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