FOLDING FOR FUN AND PROFIT
Origami Making Waves in Art and Industry (June 25, 2003)
The traditional Japanese pastime of origami has been attracting
renewed attention. Origami techniques have been used in clothing by a renowned
fashion designer, and the creation of elaborate, complex origami constructions
is establishing itself as a new art form. And in addition to its status as an
artistic pursuit and a fun hobby, origami is finding new applications in the worlds
of science, technology, and industry.
|The texture of this can changes when it is opened.
Traditional Hobby Meets Mathematical Theory
Most people are familiar with origami
as an educational activity for young children. The majority of the objects created
are simple, such as boats and balloons, and the most complex design that many
people have ever seen is the crane. Recently, though, origami exponents have been
producing large, complex designs for things like dinosaurs and people that can
take hours to complete. As a result, origami is gaining recognition as a means
of creating spectacular art. The reason for this evolution is that a number of
people with backgrounds in mathematics and science have taken an interest in origami
as a kind of mathematical puzzle. Looking at origami from a mathematical perspective,
it becomes apparent that there are a number of hidden rules, such as limits on
the angles, number, and types of folds that are possible. The development of a
"folding theorem" has enabled the creation of complex designs.
Gallery Origami House, which is located in Tokyo's
Hakusan district, displays such intricate designs as dinosaurs and scenes from
a famous kabuki play.
The fusion of origami and mathematical theory is increasingly being applied in
industrial fields, as well. In the summer of 2001, Kirin Brewery Co. released a new product called Hyoketsu (meaning "frozen"),
a fruit-flavored alcoholic beverage. When the can is opened, the outside changes
from a smooth texture to a pattern of indented diamonds. This design was based
on origami theory and created by Koryo Miura, who previously worked at the Institute
of Space and Astronautical Science. Research on the pattern of diamond-shape
indentations was originally undertaken for the purpose of using it in the construction
of bases on the ocean floor and other underwater structures. Employing this pattern
on the surface of a cylindrical object makes it more resistant to pressure from
the outside, such as water pressure. Using the diamond pattern on the cans of
Hyoketsu gave the product just the image the company was looking for.
Origami in Car and Spaceship Design
Origami techniques have also proved useful in developing the technology used to
fold antennas of artificial satellites into the smallest space possible before
launch. In addition, research is underway to construct automobiles structured
like a kind of solid origami. For example, a car would be much safer if its body
could change shape sufficiently upon impact to absorb the energy from a collision
with a pedestrian.
The Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, located in Kyoto Prefecture's Kansai
Science City, succeeded in creating a "table" one micrometer (one
millionth of a meter) in size out of semiconductor material using origami techniques.
This has raised hopes of being able to develop things like extremely small acceleration
sensors. Acceleration sensors are devices that convert motion into electrical
signals. If they could be made small enough, acceleration sensors could be implanted
in robots in order to allow them to balance themselves as humans do. Tiny acceleration
sensors could be used for a variety of other purposes as well, such as making
elevators stop in the event of an earthquake or aiding in the detection of avalanches.
NASA and other space agencies are working to develop solar sails, which would
allow a spaceship to travel outside the solar system powered only by sunlight.
One of the ideas that has been put forward is for a sail 100 meters in diameter
constructed using origami techniques. Airbags, plastic bottles, instant food packaging,
maps, tents, and roofs for domed stadiums are just some of the other products
in which origami techniques either have been used already or are expected to be
Thanks to a blend of the ancient art of paper folding and modern manufacturing
technology, consumers - and even astronauts! - are likely to enjoy more and more
benefits from origami techniques in years to come.
Related Web Sites
"origami" in Kids Web Japan
Gallery Origami House (Japanese only)
Kirin Brewery Co.
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International
Kansai Science City
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
WITH JUST ONE SHEET OF PAPER
(October 4, 2001)