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A Technique For Folding Thick Rigid Materials

ID: 2013-085 A technique to design origami-inspired mechanisms using thick materials.

Principal Investigator: Larry Howell

The purpose of the invention is to provide designers a new technique that allows any arbitrary panel thickness to be used when designing origami-inspired mechanisms without compromising paper origami motion or limited range of motion. All current methods to use thick materials in origami-inspired design have limitations of restricted range of motion, altered motion, or instability.

The primary advantages of this inventions are as follows:
1. This invention can locate the hinge plane at any arbitrary location.
2. It allows full range of motion with the same proscribed hinge motion set by the original origami paper model.
3. It can be made using any arbitrary panel thickness including unequal panel thicknesses.

The technique is based on the idea that complex structures can be designed as idealized fully flat-foldable zero-thickness models that fold all the way from “flat” to “fully folded.” When constructed from real-world materials, however, each panel has nonzero thickness. It is still desirable, however, to make use of the zero-thickness mechanism and have the panels stack up in parallel and lie in a plane. This invention describes a family of structures that have the desirable property of a zero thickness mechanism but using nonzero thickness rigid panels. Through orthogonal construction of rigid panels, a joint plane can be chosen and connected to each offset panel. Since all joints lay in a plane, the thick construction will behave, in the absence of self-intersections, as the zero-thickness model would. The technique allows for any arbitrary panel thickness including panels with different thicknesses without significantly compromising the original model’s motion or range.

The invention could be used in consumer products such as containers, packaging, as well as but not limited to solar arrays. Application in architecture is probable enabling moveable structures. Space application in arrays and satellites are promising.

See also invention number 2016-003.

For more information, contact 801-422-6266

Links and Resources

  1. One page Summary PDF
  2. Link to Related Invention (2016-003)
  3. Inventor Webpage - Larry Howell
  4. Inventor Webpage - Spencer Magleby
  5. Compliant Mechanisms Research Group Webpage