The ancient art of origami could have a future in space.
Sweden’s first astronaut and the European Space Agency (ESA) this week unveiled a new project inspired by the paper folding technique.
The program will use technology developed by Stilfold, a Swedish startup that pioneered a manufacturing process called “industrial origami”.
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The technique uses robotic arms to fold sheets of steel over curves to form complex and lightweight shapes.
Stilfold previously used the approach to build an electric scooter. According to the company, the techniques led to 70% fewer components, 40% less weight, 20% lower material costs and 25% lower labor costs.
The team believes such savings could be particularly powerful in space, where they might allow it Complex structures constructed with minimal materials and components. In addition, the process requires no stamping or welding.
Stilfold co-founder Jonas Nyvang envisions the unfolding of vehicles and food storage in space.
“You can’t put a lot in space because it takes up so little space,” he told TNW. “The flexibility of our technology makes it possible to bring stacked sheets that you can just tuck away and then unfold to create something when you get there.”
To test the theory, Stilfold will do it Working with Sweden International Space Asset Acceleration Company (ISSAC), a new organization supported by ESA and Swedish astronauts Christ Vogelgesang,
The team will now spend 12 months exploring the possibilities.
Stilfold co-founders Jonas Nyvang and Tue Beijer. Photo credit: Stilfold
Nyvang was previously a Marketing Director at fashion brand Björn Borg, where he worked with ESA to develop heat-resistant underwear for steelworkers.
After founding Stilfold, he was drawn to ESA’s approach of “hurling” and “hurling” space technology to Earth. Earth technology into space.
“What’s great about the space sector is that it’s pushing the boundaries of material creation for different innovations because there’s such a rigid framework for what you can do in space.”
NASA has also experimented with origami-inspired techniques, but these projects focus on large structures.
“There is also great potential for smaller structures – and we want to explore that first,” said Nyvang.
The industrial origami process in action. Photo credit: Stilfold.
Stilfold also provides an example of how European startups can get involved in space. Stefan Gustafsson, commercialization officer at ESA, has the following advice for companies wanting to work with his agency:
“First check what an ESA Business Incubation Center can offer nearby. Startups younger than five years old can benefit from up to two years of business incubation, with access to technical, financial and IP support, as well as €50,000 in funding,” he told TNW via email.
“In addition, there are various ESA programs that could be attractive for SMEs, e.g. B. ESA Business Application Kick-Starters, which provide development financing for companies space based applications. ESA has a patent portfolio with technologies that may be useful in another context.
“Finally, the ESA SME Office also has various ways to support startups, e.g. B. Training for applying for regular ESA contracts.”
There’s no guarantee they’ll be backed by ESA, but it doesn’t have to take light years to get their technology into space.
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