Most people when they think of origami, think, you know, my eight-year-old is doing origami. Why are these engineers at BYU working with origami?
BYU’s connection with origami began with the realization that origami
was really a complaint mechanism. So a complaint mechanism is a device
that gets its motion from things like bending and deflection,
instead of hinges and bearings. We can actually make them very
low cost sometimes. They can also operate in very harsh
environments like the environment of space. Origami helps inspire new
ways of looking at how mechanisms can work or how we can
approach solutions to problems. It’s very expensive and very difficult to
get things into space, and the nice thing with a lot of origami
is you can make it very compact for launch, and as you get into space you
can deploy and be very large. I’m working on an origami inspired
deployable solar array for spacecraft. The panel
hanging behind me is the 20th scale prototype
of this 25-meter array system. By using origami principles,
we can get a much larger array into space by stowing it
compactly during launch and then opening up once we’re in space. The spacecraft would be inside a rocket,
like an Atlas 5 rocket, and the solar array would wrap around the
outside of the space craft, and it would be all folded up compactly
and then launched into space and deployed. This is our cubesat version. As we open it, it opens
to about 50 centimeters and has the potential to generate about
65 watts of energy at this actual size. Cubesats are kind of the new novel way
of getting things into space quickly because the’re small, they
don’t cost a lot, and you can throw them on with any rocket that’s going into space.
In addition to working with people like the National Science
Foundation, we have projects with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in
Alabama and also with the JPAL. These are the same
people that do the Mars rover and other things. We are doing origami
inspired mechanisms, as an expanding solar array. We’re involved as a collaborator with Robert Lang, who is a world-renowned expert in origami. It’s very unique to work with someone who is such an expert. He’s defined an area for himself in this mathematics and origami crossover field. And so this combination of taking this art this ancient art and combining it with engineering, we’ve been able to discover
new things and new motions that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
I think the biggest thing to learn from this kind of research is that you can find
inspiration for designs from anything. If you’re open to inspiration from any of
these sources, then your creativity is not limited.