How to Use Origami to Make a Photoreflector (and More!) - TfCD




Hi! In this instructable, you can learn how to make an origami structure in the miura-ori technique. It uses a repeating pattern (so the size is adjustable to your needs) and can compress very far.

The applications of this technique are endless, but in the interest of time we will only explain one as a proof of concept, and provide some suggestions to get your creative juices going. The one application we will explore is using the high compression rate of the structure to make a photoreflector, used in photography and possibly in vertical farming to create evenly distributed light. Our result is shown above.

Step 1: What You Need


- sturdy paper, preferably 120 grams or more

- a ballpoint pen (empty ones work), exacto knife or corrugating tool

- a metal ruler

- for the photoreflector: aluminum plumbing tape, or alternatively some form of sprayglue and aluminum foil (aluminum foil is cheap and a lot easier to work with in this case)

- for the photoreflector: A kitchen sponge


This project took about 2 hours to make, but it might take less or more depending on the size of your pattern, the size, thickness and surface of your paper and how quickly you get the hang of folding.


- Print a pattern on your paper. The main pattern of this instructable is included in the images, as well as some others in case you're interested (with examples of the finished pattern. Don't print too small or too big (aim for folds of around 2 cm) and print the two colors distinctly.

Step 2: Corrugating

With the ballpoint pen, back of the knife or corrugating tool and the ruler, corrugate the lines of the pattern (trace the lines with some force, to make a 'dent')

You do this to prepare the paper for folding. Be careful not to cut through the paper or damage it. The corugating process takes a while, and so does the folding. Know what you're in for :)

Step 3: Folding

Now, we get to the actual folding. Fold the lines of one color in one direction, and the other color in the opposite direction (so /\ vs.\/). After a while, the pattern should start to form by itself.

As you can see from the pictures, it's easiest to do this if you do it part by part. Be patient, and don't be afraid to use some force if you need to (one of the reasons you got sturdy paper).

Step 4: Application: Photoreflector

To make the surface metallic and thus much more reflective, you can use aluminum tape.

Unfold part of the pattern to make it flat. Cut strips that cover the width of the paper, and put them on one by one, overlapping slightly. Try folding the sheet and unfolding it again to keep the structure intact.
An alternative way would be to spray the sheet with spray glue and stick regular aluminum foil to it.

After applying the aluminum (let it dry if you used glue), you can use a kitchen sponge to roughen the surface of the metal, to make the reflection more diffuse.

Step 5: Other Applications

And finally, some suggestions and inspiration!

An unfolding mechanism is used in space to have large solar panels ready in no-time. This same technique can be used if you go hiking and want to charge your phone battery!

The material is also really strong. A sheet like we made today can carry at least 60 kg, provided the weight is distributed evenly. Because the valley folds are continuous, you can use this as a simple, strong airing mechanism. For your laptop, for example!

The possibilities of Origami in engineering are manifold (pun not intended). We hope you are as enthousiastic as we are!



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    6 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Very nice. I can see how it would take a while to make. But it looks really neat. Thumbs Up.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Haha yeah it does take some time definitely. But it's kinda relaxing, so it's not that bad :)


    2 years ago

    This is a great way to make a homemade version :)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! I think origami is a relatively simple way to accomplish complex things in general! :)