It’s widely assumed that 3D printing represents the next frontier in fabricating objects of all types, but researchers at Germany’s Hasso Plattner Institute have come up with a novel way of creating 3D objects out of 2D pieces of plastic using a laser cutter. LaserOrigami is a remarkable new fabrication technique that is faster than most 3D printers. Instead of using joints, LaserOrigami can create complex 3D objects by folding, bending and stretching plastic with extreme precision, eliminating the need for pieces to be manually assembled.
To create a 3D object, LaserOrigami makes precise cuts in some places, and in others it uses defocused lasers to heat up certain parts of the plastic until they become pliable, bending under the force of gravity. Using a defocused laser enables the machine to administer heat across a larger area, heating it up just enough that it bends into a new shape. The cutting and bending is all done in one swift process, and when the process is complete, the new object is fully assembled and ready to use.
The Hasso Plattner Institute has released images that show three different (but very similar) iPhone cases — one made by a 3D printer, one made by a traditional laser cutter that required some assembly, and one made by LaserOrigami. The 3D-printed version took about four hours to produce, whereas the LaserOrigami case took just three minutes to make, and it required no assembly. Some of the other objects made by LaserOrigami include a pen holder, a business card holder, and our favorite, a small plant holder (pictured at top).
Photos via Hasso Plattner Institute