Origami of thick panels

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Science  24 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6246, pp. 396-400
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2870

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Expanding origami to thicker materials

A vast array of origami patterns can be applied to the folding of any material of near-zero thickness, such as paper. However, the folding of thick materials requires adding material and offsets. Chen et al. develop a general model in which the standard spherical linkages (creases) are replaced with rigid panels connected via offset folds, so that the folding motion of both near-zero–thickness and thick objects is the same. Furthermore, the hinges are constrained to move in only one direction, which is important for applications such as unfolding solar panels in space or large engineering structures, where you want the folding to occur automatically.

Science, this issue p. 396


Origami patterns, including the rigid origami patterns in which flat inflexible sheets are joined by creases, are primarily created for zero-thickness sheets. In order to apply them to fold structures such as roofs, solar panels, and space mirrors, for which thickness cannot be disregarded, various methods have been suggested. However, they generally involve adding materials to or offsetting panels away from the idealized sheet without altering the kinematic model used to simulate folding. We develop a comprehensive kinematic synthesis for rigid origami of thick panels that differs from the existing kinematic model but is capable of reproducing motions identical to that of zero-thickness origami. The approach, proven to be effective for typical origami, can be readily applied to fold real engineering structures.

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