Deployable and Origami Structures

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


The project's emphasis is on deployable structures with surface and volumetric changes. One of the main aims of this project is to understand fundamental principles governing the motion and build of analytical framework to model the kinematic behaviour of deployable structures based on the origami - the ancient art of paper folding. Within this area the focal point of the research will be rigid origami - a subset of origami that consists of rigid structural elements connected by creases. This type of origami-based morphing structures provides many opportunities for engineering applications. For example, the surface folding patterns of tessellation origami, such as Miura-Ori pattern can possibly be a source of ideas how to compactly fold up a solar panel made of interlinked square units. An extension of such concepts can also be used to fold curved surfaces such as the one for antenna reflectors. These applications can lead to the development of novel concepts directly applicable to aerospace structures.

Within this project there are certain objectives which need to be accomplished. The base for the research will be to obtain mathematical apparatus describing origami-based movements and attempts to parametrize them. Preparation of computational an physical models confirming obtained results as well as identification of arisen difficulties such as kinematic indeterminacies or excessive geometric constraints would be of equal importance. As origami-based structures used for engineering applications cannot be considered as having zero thickness, another objective is to investigate how to preserve kinematic motion of origami patterns in deployable structures comprised of rigid elements with non-zero thickness. Moreover, it is believed that different origami patterns (e.g. based on vertices where four, five or six creases meet) have a possibility to be connected without the interference in motion ability. This could result in obtaining foldable structural solutions having a mixed set of properties derived from different origami patterns. The materials used to build such foldable structures will also be examined so that they can both facilitate folding and achieve shape accuracy once deployed.

All the above mentioned research will allow to develop further knowledge in 3D origami-based structures that can process both morphing capability and retain structural integrity. There is a lack of systematic research in this area and current results are often aimed for a specific configuration. Our research outcome can possibly generate a common approach for the development of foldable surface structures, which in turn could lead to innovations in rapidly developed branches of engineering, where the true potential of such structures lies. Examples of fields of science which could especially benefit from the obtained knowledge are materials and aerospace. The company directly involved with the research in Oxford Space Systems, which deals with developing novel, deployable solutions in space technology sector. Together we have identified some target applications such as solar panels for Cubesat and a 3m diameter foldable antenna reflector which can transmit signals in C-band spectrum. This project falls within EPSRC Aerospace Engineering Research area.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R512333/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
1939878 Studentship EP/R512333/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Mateusz Portka
Description Presentation on origami structures for students of mechanical and aerospace engineering. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A video-conference was held to give a presentation for undergraduate and postgraduate students at one of the US universities. The talk aimed to explain the basic concepts of origami engineering to mechanical and aerospace engineering students. The goal was also to raise awareness of the kinds of benefits deployable structures can bring to engineering designs. The presentation resulted in students' increased interest in the solutions. Occasional video-conferences to brainstorm ideas and to advise on how to enhance designs with origami followed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020