The ancient Japanese art of paper-folding, known as Origami, has been used as a reference in fabricating a paper device that works as a mechanical switch.

A research team made up of scientists from the Engineering Division of the New York University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Warwick Manufacturing Group at The University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, reported fabricating a paper device that uses a Kresling pattern, a particular pattern in paper folding that has been used in physics and space-related applications. Their study is published in Applied Physics Letters, by AIP Publishing, first accepted in July and later published Tuesday, August 25.

Origami Crane
(Photo : Andreas Bauer Origami-Kunst via Wikimedia Commons)
Origami crane folded from one uncut square of paper. The Japanese paper-folding art has been used to create a new class of mechanical switches.

A Kresling Pattern-based Binary Switch

The authors behind the study noted the re-emergence of Origami as an innovative way of designing and building mechanical structures that have tailorable properties. Engineering and scientific structures that take inspirations from Origami are generally divided into two: rigid and non-rigid structures. For rigid structures, only the creases between panels are deformed while non-rigid also shows non-rigid elastic deformation in the panels themselves.

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One design, the Kresling pattern that has been particularly useful for researchers, falls under the non-rigid structure type.

The Kresling pattern is generally a cylindrical paper-folding technique that contains an area of identical triangular panels going around the cylinder, acting as the deformable "bellow" part, allowing the body to compress or extend as a spring does. The bellow part of the pattern can be used as a spring, controllable by forces applied on the platform that holds the structure.

In the study, this technique is employed to create a binary switch, one that has an on and off state, called a KIMS - a Kresling-inspired mechanical switch. In their investigation, they discovered that oscillating a platform that holds the KIMS up and down allows it to flip between its two states.

Testing the KIMS Switches' Binary Response

By sending this harmonic resonant excitation, at a pre-selected frequency, researchers were able to selectively control a cluster of KIMS. Researchers used an electrodynamic shaker to introduce the input stimuli and a laser to monitor the KIMS' response from the upper surfaces.

"We used the Kresling origami pattern to also develop a cluster of mechanical binary switches," said study author Ravindra Masana in the AIP published release.

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To test the KIMS' response, the research team began with a 2-bit memory board. It was formed with two binary KIMS over a single platform - creating a total of four distinct states 00, 01, 10, and 11. Sending an oscillating signal to observe its switching behavior between the four states. If a two-bit KIMS memory board works then it could be extended to more complex memory structures with more bits and more KIMS installed.

APL20-AR-03088_Origami_Masana_RL_video1 from Newswise on Vimeo.


"Such switches can be miniaturized," noted study author Mohammed Daqaq, director of NYU Abu Dhabi's Laboratory of Applied Nonlinear Dynamics. In its scaled designs, the research team is looking at scalable actuators based on piezoelectric and graphene sources.

For more articles on how an ancient paper-folding art revolutionizes future tech, check out more news and information on Origami on Science Times.