Computational Origami

Definition of Computational Origami

Computational origami is a branch of computational geometry that focuses on the study and simulation of origami folding techniques using mathematical algorithms and computer models. It aims to understand the principles behind folding complex 3D structures from 2D materials like paper and apply these concepts to various scientific and technological fields, such as robotics, aerospace engineering, and designing foldable structures. This interdisciplinary field combines art, mathematics, and computer science to create efficient, customizable, and creative solutions for real-world challenges.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Computational Origami” is:kəmˌpyo͞otərˈāSHənəl ˌôrəˈɡämē

Key Takeaways

  1. Computational Origami, also known as Origami Design or Algorithmic Origami, is a subfield of computational geometry and mathematics, focused on studying and designing origami models using mathematical algorithms and techniques.
  2. One of the key principles in Computational Origami is the Huzita-Hatori axioms, which are a set of geometric rules derived from traditional origami to determine the fold placements using mathematical properties. These axioms allow for the creation of complex and precise models using computational origami software.
  3. Computational Origami has applications beyond art and design, extending to fields such as engineering, robotics, and materials science. Some notable examples include deployable structures in space, micro-fabrication of medical devices, and shape-morphing mechanisms for robotics.

Importance of Computational Origami

Computational origami is an important technology term as it signifies the intersection of art, mathematics, and computer science for solving complex design and engineering problems.

This interdisciplinary field leverages algorithms and computational models to simulate, analyze, and fold paper-like structures, enabling the creation of intricate physical and digital objects with applications in diverse domains such as robotics, architecture, fashion, and manufacturing.

Furthermore, computational origami provides valuable insights into how we can optimize material usage, create advanced structures, and even innovate new fabrication techniques, thereby expanding the horizons of design and scientific exploration.


Computational Origami is a multidisciplinary field that combines the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, mathematics, and computer science to represent various structures at a computational level. Its primary purpose is to create complex and intricate models by transforming flat surfaces into three-dimensional objects through folding techniques.

The ability to facilitate various applications and innovations across domains such as engineering, architecture, biology, and robotics, is one of the major benefits of this technology. One significant application of Computational Origami is in designing deployable structures or devices that can be expanded or unfolded from a compact form to a larger one, such as solar panels or satellite antennas which need to be transported to space in limited and confined spaces.

Another impactful application is within the field of medicine, where it is being used to develop novel medical devices like stents and drug delivery mechanisms that can be precisely tailored to individual patients. In essence, the transformative capabilities of Computational Origami have led to a myriad of advancements, transcending multiple disciplines and industries.

Examples of Computational Origami

Computational origami is a fascinating interdisciplinary field that combines mathematics, computer science, and the art of folding paper (origami). By using mathematical algorithms and computer modeling, researchers and artists are able to create intricate and complex origami structures. Here are three real-world examples of computational origami:

Origami-based architectural design:Researchers and architects are using computational origami to create innovative, structurally-conscious designs for buildings, bridges, and other architectural structures. An example of this is the work of architect and computer scientist Mark Burry, who has employed computational origami techniques to fold architectural forms in the construction of the famous Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Folding solar panels for space exploration:Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been applying computational origami principles to design foldable solar panels for space exploration missions. One such example is the Miura-ori fold, a pattern that allows solar arrays to unfold for efficient space utilization. It can be easily stored in a compact state during transportation, then deployed over a large surface area once in space.

Medical devices and drug delivery:Researchers in the field of biomedical engineering are utilizing computational origami for designing and developing medical devices, such as stents, heart implants, and drug delivery systems. An example is the work by Zhong You and Kaori Kuribayashi, who developed an origami stent-graft that can be collapsed into a small profile for insertion into the body and then expanded to support blood vessels.These examples demonstrate the broad range of applications and versatility of computational origami across different fields, showing its potential for pioneering technological developments.

Computational Origami FAQ

What is Computational Origami?

Computational Origami or algorithmic origami is the study of algorithms and mathematical principles involved in paper folding art. It explores the relationships between folding patterns, the properties of the folded structures, as well as efficient and effective techniques for generating origami designs with the help of computers.

What are the applications of Computational Origami?

Computational Origami has various applications ranging from art and design to science and technology. Some of the applications include creating intricate artistic designs, optimizing folding patterns for industrial purposes, solving geometric problems, designing airbags, solar panel arrays, satellites, and architectural structures with complex geometries.

How does Computational Origami relate to mathematics and geometry?

Computational Origami involves the study of mathematical and geometric properties associated with folding paper or any other material. It explores the concepts of topology, geometry, symmetry, transformations, and more. By studying these properties, researchers can develop algorithms and mathematical models to describe and create origami designs with multiple folds and complex shapes.

Who are some prominent researchers in the field of Computational Origami?

Some notable researchers in the field of Computational Origami include Dr. Erik Demaine, Dr. Robert Lang, Dr. Tomohiro Tachi, and Dr. Jun Mitani. These researchers have significantly contributed to the advancements in the field, such as algorithm development, geometric folding theories, and designing origami-inspired structures.

What software or tools are commonly used in Computational Origami?

Several software tools and applications are available to assist in the design and study of Computational Origami. Some popular ones include TreeMaker, Origamizer, Freeform Origami, Rigid Origami Simulator, and Oripa. These tools enable origami enthusiasts and researchers to create complex origami designs, study folding patterns, and analyze the geometric properties of folded structures.

Related Technology Terms

  • Origami Simulator: A computational tool that demonstrates the paper folding process and evaluates potential designs.
  • TreeMaker: A program that generates crease patterns for origami designs based on specified stick figures.
  • Robert J. Lang: A renowned origami artist and mathematician who significantly contributed to the field of computational origami.
  • Flat-foldable: A term used in computational origami to describe a folded shape that can be flattened onto a plane without any overlaps or gaps.
  • Rigid Origami: A subdiscipline of computational origami that deals with the study and design of structures that maintain their shape and do not deform when folded.

Sources for More Information


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