Origami tubes with reconfigurable polygonal cross-sections

E. T. Filipov, G. H. Paulino, T. Tachi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Thin sheets can be assembled into origami tubes to create a variety of deployable, reconfigurable and mechanistically unique three-dimensional structures. We introduce and explore origami tubes with polygonal, translational symmetric cross-sections that can reconfigure into numerous geometries. The tubular structures satisfy the mathematical definitions for flat and rigid foldability, meaning that they can fully unfold from a flattened state with deformations occurring only at the fold lines. The tubes do not need to be straight and can be constructed to follow a nonlinear curved line when deployed. The cross-section and kinematics of the tubular structures can be reprogrammed by changing the direction of folding at some folds. We discuss the variety of tubular structures that can be conceived and we show limitations that govern the geometric design. We quantify the global stiffness of the origami tubes through eigenvalue and structural analyses and highlight the mechanical characteristics of these systems. The two-scale nature of this work indicates that, from a local viewpoint, the crosssections of the polygonal tubes are reconfigurable while, from a global viewpoint, deployable tubes of desired shapes are achieved. This class of tubes has potential applications ranging from pipes and microrobotics to deployable architecture in buildings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150607
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2185
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Mathematics


  • Mechanics of origami tubes
  • Programmable structures
  • Reconfigurable origami
  • Variable cross-section tubes


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