Skip to main content

BYU’s origami-inspired Kevlar shield pops up in seconds to block bullets

Bullet-proof origami: folding Kevlar shield designed by BYU mechanical engineers
Unless modern criminals are easily distracted by paper cranes, “life-saving” probably isn’t the first word you’d think to use to describe the ancient Japanese paper-folding art of origami.

That may be about to change, however, courtesy of a new research project coming out of Utah’s Brigham Young University. What engineers at BYU have developed is an origami-inspired, lightweight bulletproof shield designed to protect officers from gunfire.

“Our lab has been looking at different origami-based concepts,” Larry Howell, professor of mechanical engineering, told Digital Trends. “For example, we’ve previously worked with NASA to create deployable space systems that are very compact for launch, and which can then expand in space. We’ve also worked on surgical applications, where you could get something to enter the body through a small incision, and then unfold to carry out complex tasks. However, the idea of using this research to create a barrier was a new opportunity for us.”

Created by the university’s Compliant Mechanisms Research group, the Kevlar barrier is a freestanding shield structure, which can be erected in just a matter of seconds. It is built with 12 layers of Kevlar, which are fused together with a thin aluminum core in the center, based on an origami fold pattern called Yoshimura. This is ideal because not only does it open quickly, but it also has a curved shape that protects from both the front and sides.

In testing, the shield was shown to be able to stop bullets from several common handguns.

“In an emergency situation, the origami shield can be transported easily in the trunk of a car, carried to the location, and deployed quickly to protect two to three officers,” Terri Bateman, adjunct professor of engineering at BYU, told Digital Trends. “Other products on the market are heavier — up to 90 pounds — must be held up by the user, and are flat. During the development process, the professors and students in our lab were highly motivated by the thought that this product could save lives.”

The next step is to further refine the shield, and make improvements so it can be easily manufactured. There are also other variations the team is interested in developing such as a smaller model for an individual officer, or ones that could potentially be used in public buildings (such as schools) to protect inhabitants in the case of a shooting.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more