Origami and medical technology may not seem like a nature pair, however, Engineers at Brigham Young University proved otherwise. Using the art of paper folding, BYU engineers designed surgical devices that start out small and grow bigger in order to make surgery less invasive, all thanks to 3D printing.


Origami principles helped the engineers approach the design process differently. The tools they developed and printed are tiny when they exist outside of the body because they’re folded, requiring a smaller surgical incision. Once implanted, the tools are designed to transform into a larger, robotically-controlled device.

By folding the device prior to use, a once flat tool can grow to become 3-dimensional once it enters the body. This can help surgeons minimize invasive procedures that take a longer time to heal. In some cases, these less invasive procedures can also be completed without the use of sutures.  

Using origami as a foundation for design was not a new concept for these engineers. They previously worked with NASA to create compact equipment for use on a spacecraft. Their inventions had to start small but expand for use after the craft arrives in space.

Written by IEEE on April 25, 2016