Walkovers and safety ladders could become particularly important in the years to come, if an origami-inspired method for creating retractable rooftops enters common usage.
Called Kaleidogami, the method is currently being researched at Purdue University in the US, where engineers have tweaked the rules of origami and applied them to flat building materials.
“”Whereas traditional origami allows only folding, we create our structures by folding and also making cuts to a single piece of flat, paper-like material,”” says mechanical engineering doctoral student Wei Gao.
This can create structures with applications in retractable roofs, skylights and vaulted ceilings, and which can be transported cheaply due to their lightweight material content.
The cost of the materials themselves is also typically low, due to their paper-like nature – but any such roofs would be likely to need safety ladders and walkovers to provide a sturdy access point for maintenance purposes.
In related research, the team are looking into Kinetogami, a robotic principle that would allow devices to adjust their shape to suit the terrain – from a walking position on flat surfaces, to a snake-like flat base when sliding down slopes.
At present, both principles are in the proof-of-concept stage, but could soon see their first full-scale trials.