Origami and folding turn up in surprising ways in the technological world, in space, automotive, consumer electronics, medecine, and more. But upon further thought, perhaps it is not so surprising. Many of these fields have a common requirement, which can be boiled down to a few simple criteria:
- The technological object is thin and sheet-like;
- It must be opened out and flat at its destination...
- ...but must be much smaller for the journey.
Whenever you have those three criteria together, origami has the potential to play a role. In these articles, you'll see examples of three projects I've been involved in over the years where origami techniques created the solution to a real-world, technological problem.
- Eyeglass Telescope
In the late 1990s, a group of audacious researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conceived of a gargantuan telescope, whose very existence would rely on an origami solution to a vast folding problem.
- Airbag Folding
Automotive designers face a problem with airbag verification: crash cars or simulate? By adopting an algorithm from origami, they were able to take the latter route.
Admittedly, my connection to Optigami is a bit tenuous; I met Jon Myer, a legendary research at Hughes Research Laboratories during a summer internship there, and when he learned I folded origami, he pulled out a reprint of this article. The link between optics and origami is pretty interesting, though.
There are many examples of origami finding applications in technology via many other scientists and origamists. See my collection of scientific/mathematical links for many more.