Origamizier: Origami Anything


I think I’ve always believed that origami could, in principle, represent most any shape, if you were clever enough. Until now, that was just a hunch.

This summer Erik D. Demaine and Tomohiro Tachi (of MIT and U. Tokyo) have published a complete algorithm for “Folding any Polyhedron” [1].  In short, you can make origami anything.

I don’t know what the limits of the algorithm are, but they say they can make an origami version of The Bunny, so it must be for real!

Mot of the technical details are beyond my own puny understanding of computational geometry, but I know this is potentially very important.

The traditional craft of origami is a repository of knowledge for how to create complicated shapes out of a single sheet of paper. These techniques are now a very important source of design for foldable and flatpack designs for robots and objects.

For one thing, these designs are amenable to simple digital manufacturing with laser cutters and 3D printers. For another, just like flat pack furniture, it is interesting to deliver a compact package that folds into a complex device on location. At small scales, this might deliver medical robots inside a body. At larger scales, this might deliver a planetary rover or temporary shelter via air drop.

I’m sure there are many more cases I haven’t though about.

My own view is that every engineering and design student should study origami.  It should be part of the mental (and manual) toolkit.

The “origamizer” is extremely significant because it means that it should be possible to realize any CAD design in one or more origamis. Combined with different manufacturing techniques, designers can deliver self-assembling and DIY designs of greater and greater complexity. Cool!

I’d love to see an ‘origamizer plugin’ for Blender!

  1. Erik D. Demaine and Tomohiro Tachi, Origamizer: A Practical Algorithm for Folding Any Polyhedron, in The 33rd International Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2017),, B. Aronov and M.J. Katz, Editors. 2017: Brisbane. p. 34:1–34:15. http://erikdemaine.org/papers/Origamizer_SoCG2017/paper.pdf
  2. Tomohiro Tachi. Software. 2017, http://origami.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~tachi/software/.

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