The ancient art of origami has been inspiring engineers and designers for decades. The principles behind this Japanese folding technique have been appropriated by everyone from solar array designers for implementation in space to medical engineers creating ingestible robotics. Now a team at Brigham Young University (BYU) has created a lightweight bulletproof shield inspired by a Yoshimura origami crease pattern.

After consulting with law enforcement and several federal departments, professor of mechanical engineering Larry Howell and his BYU team realized that current bulletproof shields and barriers, which are heavy, cumbersome and lack portability, were well overdue for an update.

In the quest for something lighter and more compact that would still provide protection from bullets, the team developed an innovative new shield design made of 12 layers of bulletproof kevlar that takes only fives seconds to deploy. At only 55 lb (25 kg) the barrier is almost half the weight of current steel-based shields and can safely protect two to three people at once.

"It goes from a very compact state that you can carry around in the trunk of a car to something you can take with you, open up and take cover behind to be safe from bullets," says Terri Bateman, BYU adjunct professor of engineering. "Then you can easily fold it up and move it if you need to advance your position."

During testing, the researchers found the shield to be even more successful than they had initially predicted, stopping bullets from 9mm, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum handguns.

"Those are significant handguns with power," says Howell. "We suspected that something as large as a .44 Magnum would actually tip it over, but that didn't happen."

Currently still in prototype form, the team is continuing to work with law enforcement agencies and has tested it with officers on site who have been impressed. The team also believes the barrier could have broader uses, such as for safety in schools or protecting the wounded in emergencies.

Notch yet another innovative design solution up to the ancient art of origami.

Check out the team explaining and testing the design in the video below.

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