Magazine article Newsweek

Origami-Inspired Collapsible Shield Can Stop Bullets; the Curved Shield Can Stand on Its Own and Protect Up to Three People Crouching Behind It

Magazine article Newsweek

Origami-Inspired Collapsible Shield Can Stop Bullets; the Curved Shield Can Stand on Its Own and Protect Up to Three People Crouching Behind It

Article excerpt

Byline: Stav Ziv

There's origami strewn everywhere in the Compliant Mechanisms Research Group's lab at Brigham Young University. The intricately folded designs aren't just for decoration, and they go way beyond the cranes you might have whipped up as a child. These origami provide the inspiration for the researchers' mechanical engineering projects, such as a bulletproof shield that can be deployed in seconds and protect two or three people.

"Origami artists have been working for centuries. They have discovered interesting motions and ways to do things that we would not have discovered with traditional engineering approaches," says Larry Howell, a mechanical engineering professor who leads the group. Howell's was one of several university teams to receive funding from the National Science Foundation in 2012 to explore origami-based engineering solutions. He and his colleagues have turned to origami to design a giant, extendable solar array for NASA and tiny devices for minimally invasive surgery that were licensed by Intuitive Surgical, maker of the robotic da Vinci Surgical System.

The group's ballistic barrier is 12 layers of Kevlar fabric connected with adhesive. Lightweight panels made of plastic and aluminum are inserted in the middle (so that there are six Kevlar layers on either side) to support the design's flat surfaces. In other words, the panels are everywhere the origami-style folds are not. The whole thing is then covered with a layer of black ballistic nylon--like the material used to make some laptop cases and backpacks--to protect the Kevlar from sunlight, water and other damaging elements. …

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