Origami inspired design can help reusable spacecrafts

Researchers at the University of Washington come up with a method that takes its inspiration from the thousands of year old tradition of origami structures to help reusable spacecrafts stick to the landing.

Origami inspired design can help reusable spacecraftsInspired by the paper folding art of origami, the team created a paper model of a metamaterial that uses “folding creases” to soften impact forces and instead promote forces that relax stresses in the chain.

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Just like origami, these unit cell prototypes are made out of paper. The researchers used a laser cutter to cut dotted lines into paper to designate where to fold.

The team folded the paper along the lines to form a cylindrical structure, and then glued acrylic caps on either end to connect the cells into a long chain.

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The researchers lined up 20 cells and connected one end to a device that pushed and set off a reaction throughout the chain. Using six GoPro cameras, the team tracked the initial compression wave and the following tension wave as the unit cells returned to normal.

The chain composed of the origami cells showed the counter intuitive wave motion: Even though the compression pushing force from the device started the whole reaction, that force never made it to the other end of the chain.

Instead, it was replaced by the tension force that started as the first unit cells returned to normal and propagated faster and faster down the chain. So the unit cells at the end of the chain only felt the tension force pulling them back.

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Yang said. “Right now it’s made out of paper, but we plan to make it out of a composite material. Ideally, we could optimize the material for each specific application.”

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