AeroMorph: inflatable self-folding origami

Origami can turn an ordinary sheet of paper (or other material) into the most fantastic shapes, but it is also a source for inspiration in the material world. Earlier, we discussed an origami canoe that, when folded, is the size of a suitcase, origami that is strong enough to support a house, and much more. Now, students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a type of origami structures called aeroMorph that can be inflated to take a particular shape.

First, the structures are designed in a software programme that simulates how a certain shape will bend when inflated. Using a standard 3-axis CNC prototyping machine fit with a custom heat-sealing head, the necessary pockets of air are created as designed in the software, similar to a sewing machine making stitches. When the structures are inflated, they fold into a predictable shape. The prototypes vary from a crane (a must for anything origami) to boxes. The structures are made from materials such as paper, plastic and fabric.

AeroMorph is much more than origami for lazy people. A type of metamaterial, it has the potential to be used for example in design and architecture, but also in fashion (such as interactive wearables technology), toys, or as packaging material. Especially the latter would decrease the amount of filling material needed, such as packing peanuts and bubblewrap, which is good for the environment.

AeroMorph is developed at MIT’s Media Lab / Tangible Media Group, consisting of Jifei Ou, Melina Skouras, Nikolaos Vlavianos, Felix Heibeck, Chin-Yi Cheng, Jannik Peters, and Hiroshi Ishii.

Photos: MIT Media Lab / Tangible Media Group