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Form finding and evaluation of origami structures

Daniel Baerlecken1, Matthew Swarts2, Russell Gentry3, Nixon Wonoto4
Georgia Institute of Technology USA.
1,, 3russell.gentry@,

Abstract. This paper presents a concept of origami as a form-generator for a structural

system that allows deployability for structures with large spans. The presented approach
studies the embedded kinetic possibilities of folded structures and focuses on a parametric
modelling process that allows evaluating the structural performance of different types
of the same origami family in order to optimize the geometry for a given scenario. The
workflow between scripting based form generation – within Rhinoceros and Excel – and
LS-DYNA is presented in detail. In addition to that the question of scalability from a thin
microstructure to a thickened roof structure is discussed in the context of an architectural
Keywords. Parametric modelling; form finding; origami; LS-DYNA; scripting.

This paper presents the concept of bio-origami as a ture, but rather explore frozen states.
form-generator for large-scale deployable architec- The paper reviews different types of bio-ori-
tural structures. Applications of origami and folded gami—with special focus on kinetic and structural
structures have been promoted in the past success- properties—and discusses the problems of produc-
fully for engineering solutions by researchers such ing these forms at the building scale with special at-
as Robert J. Lang. In architecture, the concept of the tention to static and dynamic stability. Starting with
fold echoes in Rem Koolhaas and Peter Eisenman, research on leaves, petals and insect’s wing a cata-
who understand folding as an aesthetic and pro- logue of their different tectonic and kinetic systems
grammatic technique in a series of projects such as has been investigated in order to develop a new
the Educatorium in Utrecht, Netherlands built 1997. range of physical systems generated on the basis of
Foreign Office Architects (FOA) has explored the po- biological analogies. The research explores the ques-
tential of structural folding (for example with the tion if principles extracted from a microstructure are
Yokohama Terminal in 2002). But the folds in these fully or partially applicable at a larger scale in order
projects don’t focus on the deplorability of a struc- to discover new and innovative structural systems.

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Figure 1
diagram of folding mecha-
nism, earwigs.

In the first phase the research started with the se- as quasi-prosthesis based on origami folds index-
lective, but truthful, modelling of the organism’s ing valley and mountain folds, pleats, reverse folds,
system of principles of folding in nature as found in squash folds, and sinks. The research does not only
the leaves and insect’s wings, segments of earwigs, focus on folding processes between retracted and
grasshoppers, crickets and praying mantis. Follow- deployed states, but also on the in-between states
ing a Saussurean approach (1868) the research cate- of the system.
gorizes wing types and leaf types according to their In phase 3 models and principles were trans-
ability for duplicature and modes of duplicature ferred into the construction of new architectural
(transversal and longitudinal types). systems in consideration of different scales and
In the second phase technological, artificial scalability. Here a structural feedback between
equivalents are proposed in different configurations parametric modeling software and structural evalu-

Figure 2
diagram of folding patterns of
leaves (left), analogue models

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ation software has been developed through applications for engineering problems ranging from
scripts. A special complexity arises through the data air-bag design to expandable space telescopes.
transference between grasshopper and LS-DYNA. A classification of origami types is difficult, since
While grasshopper and Rhino primarily operate with the field is developing in different trajectories. Ac-
independent NURBS surfaces, most model analysis cording to some origami specialists there are over
is performed through triangulated meshes, and in 80 types of origami. One of the recent types is the
the case of LS-DYNA polygonal meshes. The struc- Miura fold which has been invented for large solar
ture of the architectural systems was maintained panel arrays for space satellites by Japanese astro-
through rigorous conversion for structural analysis physicist Koryo Miura. A folded Miura fold can be
over time. In the last phase prototypes developed packed into a very compact area, its thickness re-
through digital fabrication and their structural prop- stricted only by the thickness of the folded material.
erties are tested. The fold can also be unpacked in just one motion by
In phase 3 and 4 the material selection and man- pulling on opposite ends of the folded material, and
ufacturing strategies for origami-inspired architec- likewise folded again by pushing the two ends back
ture are of special importance. Due to the kinematic together.
requirements for fabrication and deployment of the The selected type of Miuri-Ori pattern as a two-
action-origami structure, materials with high elon- dimensional deployable array can be characterized
gation and/or low stiffness were considered. The as rigid origami, because it shares the following
consideration for manufacturing of the full-scale properties:
origami led to the consideration of mold-able, fold- 1. The folding pattern is deployable and can be
able materials suitable for use outdoors. The materi- folded from a single sheet of paper. Or in a re-
al used for the initial structural modelling was PETG verse definition, the pattern can be flattened to
(glycol-modified polyethylene terephthalate), a a structure that is planar.
thermoform-able, flexible material. Also considered 2. During the entire process of deployment the
were stiffened fabric structures, described in more faces and the edges of each element stay pla-
detail below. nar: all regions of the paper remain flat and all
crease lines stay straight.
ORIGAMI TYPES 3. The joins/folds act as hinges.
Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding (from Interestingly these characteristics are very architec-
ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper”). tural, because they translate to the use of planar
In traditional origami, folded structures are created building components that interact through hinging.
by the use of a single sheet of colored paper that Also the aspect of repetition allows developing a
is often, but not always, square. But there are also modular system for connection elements.
types created from multiple sheets of paper: modu-
lar origami combines a number of individual origa- CASE STUDY
mi units, which are each folded from an individual A concept for a deployable roof system has been de-
sheet of paper. Other types such as wet folding in- veloped based on Miura-ori leaf-folding patterns for
troduce curvilinear structure to origami. the Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture, Japan and is
A lot of these origami designs are not older than presented as a case study. Research from L. Mahade-
50 years and were made possible through new tech- van and S. Rica (2005) has shown that hornbeam
niques. As mentioned before, one of the most im- leaves in the process of blooming show a natural oc-
portant origami researchers is the physicist Robert currence of the Miura-ori pattern. The Miuri-ori pat-
J. Lang, who has not only contributed many publi- tern has been selected for the case study, because of
cations on folding techniques, but also developed its ability to function in a rectangular boundary as

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Figure 3
geometric permutations of
Miura-ori pattern.

a surface structure with two-sided support. A fold- PERMUTATIONS AND THE ORIGAMI
ing system based on insect wings would require to TRUSS
re-think the existing structure, since their folding Geometric permutations of this origami roof con-
mechanism tend to function in radial configuration cept, generated using Rhino/Grasshopper are gen-
with one-sided support, which was not the aim of erated and the geometric permutations are tied to
this research project, but might be very interesting large-deformation structural analysis using LS-DY-
to explore. One example of a fan-like type is the Mill- NA. LS-DYNA input is generated from the geometry
er Park stadium in Milwaukee, which uses two radial using Grasshopper and scripts. The explicit
mega-structures to create an enclosure. finite element method used by LS-DYNA is selected
Retractable roofs for sport events usually try to for this problem due to the large deformation of the
achieve the following architectural purposes: origami structures and the post-buckling response
1. Creation of a climate-controlled enclosure in its exhibited by some of the permutations.
unfolded version The simulations demonstrate the difficulty in
2. Compactness: When the roof is in use, it should finding full-scale forms that can deploy in one di-
be as immaterial and invisible as possible mension as required for the Toyota Stadium roof,

Figure 4
diagram of the origami truss.

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Figure 5
geometric principles.

and yet remain stiff enough in the transverse direc- created in the origami surface, and the telescoping
tion to span the opening. The concept of an “origami members as nested round tubes equipped with an
truss” is presented as a solution to stiffen the origami external locking mechanism.
skin, and still allow for the kinematic movement Still it has to be asked, if all properties from a
necessary to accommodate the roof. paper-thin structure can translate 1:1 to a large
The origami truss includes the continuous sur- scale structure. Trautz and Kuenstler (2009) investi-
face along with stiffened elements that follow the gate different possibilities of 4-fold mechanisms for
creases of the origami. The connections at the end folded plate structures and they show that restric-
of the elements, which coincide with the vertices tions apply to scalability of 4-fold plate structures,
of the origami surface, are envisioned to rotate, so and that all four hinge translations need to be un-
that the truss will deploy with the surface. A subset coupled.
of the transverse elements within the truss must tel- The stiffened sail option seems to have advan-
escope (i.e., elongate and shorten) during actuation tages. It creates a hybrid system of flexibility and
of the truss, and must therefore lock axially once the rigidity, where the interaction of rigid members and
deployed structure has reached it open or closed the flexible membrane panels allow to achieve the
position. The origami surface and truss can be envi- architectural criteria. Such a system is closely orient-
sioned as a stiffened sail, with the non-telescoping ed on the studied precedent in nature where thin
members constructed as battens within pockets membranes are reinforced by veins and ribs.

Figure 6
diagrams of data manage-
ment within grasshopper/ for polygons.

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Figure 7
geometric principles of Miura-
ori pattern.

GEOMETRIC PRINCIPLES OF THE ployment, where zero percent deployment is com-

MIURA-ORI PATTERN pletely folded and 100 percent deployment is com-
The rotational kinematics of the Miura pattern can pletely flat. The span capacity is also dependent on
be described as follows. The individual facets are the boundary conditions at the ends of the pattern,
defined by the parallelogram that results from the and on the flexural stiffness of the folded material at
folding pattern. One parallel set of opposite edges the folds.
of the parallelogram are parallel to the global coor- In the application at the Toyota stadium, it is
dinate system X-axis and remain parallel to this sys- clear that two edge boundary conditions would be
tem as the pattern folds and unfolds (see Fig. 5). The considered pinned, and the two opposite edge con-
second set of edges is at 45 degrees to the global ditions would be free. The pinned boundary condi-
X-axis when the pattern is completely flattened. As tions allow for the pattern to link with the two main
the pattern begins to fold, this second set of edges trusses on the stadium roof, and the two free edges
rotates around to also become parallel to X, and the allow for the pattern to deploy and un-deploy. The
pattern morphs out of the plane and takes on a Z structural analysis proceeded using two different as-
thickness. It is the Z thickness that gives the pattern sumptions for the boundary conditions. In the first
structural possibilities, viz, the depth to span some case (see line A-A in Fig. 5),the origami pattern acted
distance over the X and Y coordinates. The span ca- as a simply supported truss as the points along this
pacity is dependent on the depth Z, which can be line lie along the Z=0 plane. In the second case (see
thought of as inversely proportional the percent de- line B-B in Fig. 5), the pattern is supported at a set of

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Figure 8
data preparation for LS-Dyna:
1 panel centre, 2 single edge, 3
double edge, 4 6-legged node.

nodes that are offset in Z, giving the pattern signifi- chosen for rapid development of a working model.
cantly more structural stiffness. Though the second The model was constructed from planarization of
case is preferred structurally, it is difficult to imagine points to form a module. The module was then mir-
a realizable boundary condition at the main trusses rored and rotated across reflection planes to create
that achieves fixity in X, while allowing movement in a larger assembly. The use of Grasshopper made the
both Y and Z. surface relationships more explicit. This was useful
in developing a mathematical model of the basic
SETUP OF THE WORKFLOW BETWEEN Miura-ori pattern in Excel.
EXCEL AND LS-DYNA Structural analysis in LS-Dyna requires a differ-
Initial methods for constructing a parametric, ani- ent model than Rhino can produce. While most 3D
mated Miura-ori pattern were carried out in the modelling software packages can export some type
Grasshopper plugin to Rhino. This method was of triangulated mesh, LS-Dyna uses a polygonal

Figure 9
Miura-ori pattern evaluated in

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mesh data structure. The conversion from individual many of the origami simulations however, especially
NURBS polygons into an integrated polygonal mesh those at the higher levels of deployment, the struc-
data structure required several layers of point ge- tures lost stiffness indicating a buckling within the
ometry extraction and recombination, causing the origami structure. In general, this buckling occurred
Grasshopper model to respond slowly. In addition, at load stress level well below the material strength,
each planar face was subdivided at the edges to al- indicating that the problem was one of stiffness and
low material control of the corners to simulate mate- not of strength. This behaviour identifies the extent
rial fatigue at the valleys and folds. This process was to which the origami could be deployed and still re-
tedious using the existing Grasshopper methods, tain its shape under gravity loads. In most cases, this
but again revealed more explicit methods for our was below the 75% level of deployment.
mathematical model. The addition of these subdivi-
sions substantially increased the complexity of the DISCUSSION
model and decreased the interactivity. The case study proved to be successful to under-
stand geometric and structural behavior and limita-
STRUCTURAL EVALUATION IN LS-DYNA tions of the Miura Ori pattern through a parametric
The structural analysis proceeded as follows: A modeling approach. It can be concluded that the
given instance of an origami pattern was gener- logic of Grasshopper and LS-DYNA have proven to
ated in Rhino/Grasshopper. Then three versions of be not sufficient flexible for the researching struc-
this geometry, representing three levels of deploy- ture and geometry in real-time. The second ap-
ment, approximately 25%, 50%, and 75%, were used proach through excel as a purely mathematical
to generate the LS-DYNA files. The Rhino facets were process has shown to be more successful in terms of
partitioned into regions that along the boundaries data management, but lacks a visual interface that
and at the interior of the facet. In this way, the rota- would allows to work on design and evaluation al-
tional requirements at the edge of each facet could most simultaneously.
be accommodated in the finite element model by Architecturally and structurally other folding
decreasing the thickness of the material along the patterns could be studied that would result in more
edge, thus approximating the continuous linear structural surfaces such as catenary curves. This
hinge that is necessary for the deployment of the would require thinking about different type of folds
origami pattern. For this initial study, the material within one segment to achieve different types of
selected was a thick rigid polymer, PETG (polyeth- surface curvature.
ylene terephthalate) which is known to have good
optical and engineering properties, including high REFERENCES
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Initially, the thickness of the PETG was taken as 25 pp.147-154.
mm away from the boundaries and 5 mm along the Mahadevan, L and Rica, S 2005, ‘Self-Organized Origami’,
boundary. Science, 307(5716), pp. 1740.
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own self-weight in LS-DYNA. Gravity loads were ap- nales Sc. Nat., [5] Zool. X, pp. 161-200.
plied slowly, using the standard explicit formulation Trautz, M and Künstler, A 2009, ‘Deployable folded plate
within LS-DYNA. The Z reaction forces were plotted structures – folding patterns based on 4-fold-mecha-
against the central span Z displacement, to deter- nism using stiff plates’, Proceedings of the International
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linear response would indicate a stable geometry. In sium 2009, Valencia, Spain.

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