COMPUTATIONAL ORIGAMI TAKES A BIG LEAP FORWARD
An MIT professor of computer science and an assistant professor in civil engineering at the University of Tokyo have joined forces to come up with a better way of… making paper rabbits. Or rather, they have created an algorithm that enables the creation of any 3D shape from a single sheet of a given material.
MIT’s Prof Erik Demaine has previous experience in this area: his 1999 PhD thesis described the same thing. The difference, though, is that his previous algorithm essentially involved taking a long, thin strip of paper or other material and winding it into the desired shape. This tends to leave you with lots of seams in the finished 3D shape, and is inefficient in terms of the amount of paper (or other material) required. The new algorithm, on the other hand, preserves the boundaries of the original sheet of paper, and minimises the number of seams. “It’s a totally different strategy for thinking about how to make a polyhedron,” said Demaine.
If you’ve ever unfolded a paper cup from the water cooler, and ended up with a circular piece of paper, that’s the perfect example of how the new algorithm works – the outer edge of the circle ends up as the rim of the cup. Demaine’s old method, however, would have created a nonwatertight cup shape by winding a thin strip of paper into a coil.
The technique could have practical applications in manufacturing, particularly in areas such as designing and building spacecraft, where materials efficiency is of paramount importance.
The new origami algorithm can make any shape from a single sheet of material