At Adeptia, integration is our mantra — and not just data. We’re interested in all the fascinating and complementary intersections life has to offer. Integration as a concept means committing to harmonies in all disciplines and crafts, and we believe it is crucial to be open to unexpected combinations that can surprise, delight, and improve our industries and our lives.
Making 1,000 paper cranes will bring good luck, according to Japanese tradition. Giving a red origami rose may bring love. Crossing an origami-inspired bridge may bring safety and security to populations devastated by natural disasters.
Looking outside the traditional concepts of engineering to the gentle art of origami (the art of folding paper), led Japanese engineer Ichiro Ario, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil and structural engineering at Hiroshima University, to make a breakthrough that can have real consequences for people stranded after natural disasters by bridge collapses.
By considering origami for more durable projects an idea took shape. After exploring the engineering stresses and strengths inherent in origami, backed by additional research, Dr. Ario introduced the Mobilebridge™ — a new type of bridge that embodies many of origami’s structural concepts as well as the qualities of many of origami’s most loved symbols.
Uniting heaven and earth, origami turtles symbolize protection. Emulating the turtle, Mobilebridge™ extends automatically across chasms as wide as 55 feet to enable first responders to enter areas after natural disasters have destroyed permanent bridges, and to allow populations to be evacuated. It can be deployed in about one hour.
Like this symbol of strength, Mobilebridge™ is strong. During a summer demonstration, the 6’8” wide bridge supported automobile traffic. It is the largest, lightest, strongest and fastest-to-erect temporary bridge on Earth.
Like the independent, self-assured cat, Mobilebridge™ is self-contained. It can be erected on the spot, without any foundation. It goes wherever it’s needed, fitting easily in a car trailer.
Through hard work and responsibility Dr. Ario, like the lama, investigated the folding principles behind origami and ori-tatami (multi-folding) and applied them to the field of engineering.
Like the determined fish that swim upstream, the Japanese people long ago determined to embrace their islands despite being beset by typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes. The Mobilebridge™ is designed to augment the heavier temporary bridges fielded by local civil defense authorities that take four to seven days to deploy.
By combining origami with engineering, Dr. Ario’s bridge uses structural “X” shaped trusses that provide the pivot points that allow the bridge to extend and retract to quickly span a river or creek. Studying the structure of accordion folds, he developed sturdy, foldable bridge decking to support cars or pedestrians.
Origami engineering has real potential. “Many advances can be made along these lines,” Hota GangaRao, Ph.D., director of the Constructed Facilities Center at the University of West Virginia, says. “It’s only a matter of time before these concepts take firm root in bridge-building design and construction practices.”
As Mobilebridge™ is commercialized, Dr. Ario says, “The next stage is to make the bridge longer and more useful than other temporary bridges. While we hope not to have to use it because of earthquakes, landslides, floods or other disasters, we should be prepared.”
Being prepared often depends upon inspiration from unusual sources. That’s what makes it, well, inspired. By looking in diverse fields, including origami and other art forms, one engineer found his “eureka!” moment. You can, too.
About the author:
Gail Dutton has written (literally) thousands of articles discussing the intersection of science and business for a many publications and clients. She specializes in biotech and enterprise level information technology. Gail has given presentations to the Defense Department's National Defense University and to the French biotech incubator, Genopole, and covered national and international conferences in the U.S. and abroad. Check out her Ebyline profile, or email her.
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