Origami: ancient tradition, cutting-edge science

How a traditional Japanese craft inspired innovation in the latest scientific and technological research.

By NHK Educational

NHK Educational

ChiyogamiNHK Educational

Creation - from a simple sheet of paper

Innumerable variations of shapes can be created with only one sheet of paper. And now, origami, a traditional Japanese art form, is stimulating innovation in science.

The crease pattern of an origami craneNHK Educational

Make a valley fold at the blue lines and make a mountain fold at the red lines and…

How to folding a origami craneNHK Educational

Origami models with curved surfacesNHK Educational

New curved origami

3D ORIGAMI can be created simply by folding a sheet of paper.  (image @ Jun Mitani)

Pear-shaped origamiNHK Educational

Furthermore, designing patterns on the computer allows them to have round shapes previously thought too difficult to produce.

(Image @ Jun Mitani)

Origami in Ukiyo-e printsNHK Educational

The tradition of origami

Origami is a Japanese tradition. It became widespread among society early in the 17th century, during the Edo era. 

Poem Number 84: Monk Shun’e (Hachijyuyon ban Shune Hoshi), from the series “100 Poems by 100 Poets" (“Hyakunin Isshu”)NHK Educational

The crane has been an especially popular pattern to fold since the Edo era, for it is believed to bring good luck.

A Dry-goods Store in Suruga Town (Suruga-cho Echigoya)NHK Educational

WashiNHK Educational

In the Edo era, Washi, traditional Japanese paper made using unique techniques, became widely available throughout the country. The availability of Washi, whose characteristics lies in its long fibers and its toughness, was a major factor in origami's increasing popularity.

Dr. Koryo MiuraNHK Educational

Pioneering origami in science

Miura-ori was one of the first Origami methods to be utilized in the latest scientific research.

Miura-oriNHK Educational

An aluminum can that utilizes an origami methodNHK Educational

The repeat pattern that inspired Miura-ori is now being used for aluminum cans.
This engineering increases the strength of the cans, which allows the material to be thinner.

Kawasaki RoseNHK Educational

From paper roses to space telescopes

Mathematician Toshikazu Kawasaki created this paper rose by curling paper into spiral shapes based on a geometric pattern.This technique will be applied to the next generation of space telescopes at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  (Courtesy of Toshikazu Kawasaki)

Kawasaki Rose FoldingNHK Educational

"Origami Stanford Bunny CP"NHK Educational

Computational origami

Scientists are developing processes to create new structures based on origami principles. This is a diagram created using a computer. But when folded, what does it become?

"Origami Stanford Bunny CP"NHK Educational

Origami models by Dr. Tomohiro TachiNHK Educational

Any object, no matter how complex its shape, can be made from a sheet of paper.
Dividing the surface into triangles and bringing them together enables any concave or convex surface to be recreated.

"Rigid Foldable Table"NHK Educational

This is a desk that can be assembled just by lifting.
(Courtesy of Tomohiro Tachi)

"Rigid Foldable Table"NHK Educational

Deformable Sandwich Panel (Tachi Filipov Paulino, 2015.)NHK Educational

It is now likely that this method will be used in architecture, such as for an arched roof on a temporary building, made from reconfigured flat materials.

Interview of Tomohiro TachiNHK Educational

Cell origamiNHK Educational

Origami in the body

Scientists are now finding uses for origami engineering in our bodies too.An innovative study is underway in medicine using origami principles.  (Courtesy of Kaori Kuribayashi-Shigetomi)

Cell origamiNHK Educational

Origami craneNHK Educational

The union of art and science makes the possibilities of origami seem limitless.

Credits: Story

Supervised by Tomohiro Tachi, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo

Materials provided by NHK


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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