How to fold a piece of paper like a satellite solar panel

The art of origami goes beyond paper cranes and boats. In 2016, a team of Harvard researchers led by L. Mahadevan introduced a groundbreaking fold called the Miura-ori. This fold revolutionizes approaches to creating three-dimensional structures and has a wide range of potential applications, from surgical stents to space-bound payloads.

The Miura fold, as explained on Wikipedia, is a method of folding a flat surface, like a sheet of paper, into a smaller area:

The crease patterns of the Miura fold form a tessellation of the surface by parallelograms. In one direction, the creases lie along straight lines, with each parallelogram forming the mirror reflection of its neighbor across each crease. In the other direction, the creases zigzag, and each parallelogram is the translation of its neighbor across the crease. Each of the zigzag paths of creases consists solely of mountain folds or of valley folds, with mountains alternating with valleys from one zigzag path to the next. Each of the straight paths of creases alternates between mountain and valley folds.

It has been instrumental in the Japanese space program for deploying large solar panel arrays. What makes this fold unique is its ability to maintain rigidity, making it applicable to materials other than paper, such as metal or plastic. This makes it an invaluable tool for developing compact and efficient designs that can be deployed in challenging environments, whether it be outer space or inside the human body.

What sets this research apart is the use of an algorithm to create complex shapes using variations of the Miura-ori fold. As Levi Dudte, a graduate student in the Mahadevan lab, points out in Science Daily, "This fold is capable of creating many more shapes than we imagined."

Try it at home! Print out and fold this PDF, created by Dmcq – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Gif by MetaNest CC BY-SA 3.0, Link