♫MUSIC♫ LARRY HOWELL: So this is a 1/20th scale prototype of a solar array for a solar panel for space… MILES O’BRIEN: The inspiration for this design is origami – the Japanese art of paper folding. LARRY HOWELL: With these origami concepts, we can compact them very small for launch, and then once you get into space, right, they can be very large. MILES O’BRIEN: With support from the National Science Foundation, mechanical engineer Larry Howell and his team at Brigham Young University combine this ancient art with the latest engineering tools. The result? New creations, from space hardware to home furnishings. LARRY HOWELL: We do things what we call compliant mechanisms, which are things that – that get their motion from things that bend and deflect, instead of hinges and bearings. And, eventually we realized origami – it’s moving – is getting its motion from the deflection of paper. It’s a compliant mechanism. MILES O’BRIEN: And, these folded designs are usually more flexible, have fewer moving parts, and require less maintenance than traditional ones. LARRY HOWELL: Yeah, it will probably have to be tilted or something, so it has a stable state…. MILES O’BRIEN: And, what works for paper, can also work with fiberglass, acrylics, even titanium. LARRY HOWELL: This is a 3D printed titanium. We worked with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center… with no bearings or hinges, friction… cause it looks really crazy, but it has a very important precision motion. And, here is that same device, but shown in a thruster, so there’s the thruster that’s positioning a satellite. MILES O’BRIEN: Howell’s origami-inspired inventions include medical devices – like artificial spinal disks and injectable forceps. LARRY HOWELL: One of the ideas is what we call Oriceps, where you can have this very small device, but then can morph into a pair of forceps. ROBERT LANG: Fold the two top flaps one toward us one away from us… MILES O’BRIEN: Howell works closely with origami artist Robert Lang, whose art is guided by math and engineering. And, industrial design students collaborate with Howell’s team to create trendy furniture and consumer products. NICOLE CROSS: And, this right here is inspired by origami. This is a traditional butterfly chair with just a variation. LARRY HOWELL: So, I think a lot people when they hear you know – origami – really? But, we’re talking about applications that can really make a difference in the world, to do things that have never been done before, because we have this connection of this learning that comes from origami and then this connection to the engineering. MILES O’BRIEN: So, whether it’s catching solar rays in space or devising a better way to inject DNA into a cell, these engineers make it look good on paper – and more. For Science Nation, I’m Miles O’Brien.