Anyone who has tried to fold up a road map knows that origami is a valuable skill to have. With the right folds, you can transform a few square sheets of paper into practically anything, from cranes that flap their wings and balloons that inflate to frogs that jump.
Origami is truly a puzzly art form with all sorts of unexpected uses in the modern day, providing a unique solution to confounding problems.
For instance, it’s rare to encounter a spacecraft that doesn’t incorporate folding solar panels, wings, or other collapsible/expandable parts that are based on classic origami folds.
This mechanism, a solar array, is based on a Miura fold. The creation of Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura, the Miura fold allows a checkerboard-like field of interconnected parallelograms to unfold like a flower into a large, flat, circular surface.
This design is easily scaled up by adding more pieces to the network of folding peaks and valleys, allowing for different sized circular fields to be formed as needed. The array of motors around the Miura fold work like a Hoberman sphere, one of those expanding plastic toys that blooms outward with ease.
Not only does this allow them to save space for travel (and remain safe in transit), but it maximizes space when unfolded, allowing for greater surface area for energy absorption. The Mars landers, for instance, routinely incorporated folding mechanisms not only for solar panels, but for the landing platforms from which the landers emerged onto the surface.
That sort of space-efficient thinking has led to another unexpected solution, this time for plant lovers.
One recurring problem with plants is that, as they grow, they sometimes require repotting into larger containers. But what if that wasn’t necessary? What if the flower pot could adapt to the needs of the plant?
Once again, origami principles rush to the rescue.
Unlike the Miura fold, Growth relies on a recurring series of triangular folds (possibly a variation of the Yoshimura folding pattern) that allow the piece to balloon outward, increasing the interior space for the plant’s root system to grow.
This feels like one of those RVs where the ceiling can be raised and the sleeping area expanded out beyond the camper itself, offering greater freedom of movement and more living space than allowed when the RV is closed up for travel.
Watching the unfolding pot accordion outward is thoroughly impressive, and this feels like a smart step forward for all sorts of storage. Imagine a suitcase with a similar design that becomes bigger as needed. That would be super-handy.
As we continue to invent and innovate forward, it’s amazing how new creations can trace their origins back to classic techniques, just applied in a clever new fashion.
That’s the puzzly way, of course.
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