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These Bulletproof Vests Were Designed Using Origami

Ah yes, origami—the perfect art form to inspire the development of a new bullet-proof shield, right? While an ancient Japanese art of folding paper may sound boring, its folding structures translate surprisingly well to the design of Kevlar ballistic shields for law enforcement officers. That is, stopping bullets from a .44 Magnum.

Why we're covering this: 

  • It's incredible to see how ancient art can influence modern technology 
  • We love shedding light on designs that, literally, can save lives 

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A Foldable Life-Saver

Two mechanical engineers from Brigham Young University's Compliant Mechanisms Research Lab, Dr. Larry Howell and Terri Bateman, developed these new shields using 12 layers of Kevlar (material used in bulletproof vests) and a radial Yoshimura folding pattern. This origami pattern is typically used to curve paper, but here, Fast Co Design explains that it "lets the shield stand up on its own while protecting officers' sides." The engineers' new shields are also easier to handle, given that they're nearly half the weight of other ballistic shield models that incorporate hard steel.

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The Yoshimura design also allows officers to deploy their shields within just five seconds. Considering that traditional models take a considerable amount of time to set up, this is a major development. But how safe is it? While the current prototype only protects against handguns and pistols, integrating protection against assault rifles (with smaller and sharper bullets) is the next step.

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The Power Of Paper

Howell has filed for a patent with hopes that the shield will go beyond the needs of law enforcement. One day, it might even help protect school children against active shooters. So, here's your takeaway: don't underestimate a Japanese art form that dates back to the 1600s. Paper can be powerful.

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Written by Curiosity Staff March 16, 2017