A Swedish startup is plotting to bring ‘industrial origami’ to outer space


The ancient art of origami could have a future in space.

Sweden’s first astronaut and the European Space Agency (ESA) this week unveiled a new project inspired by the paper-folding technique.

The program will use technology designed by Stilfold, a Swedish startup that’s pioneered a manufacturing process called “industrial origami.”

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The technique uses robotic arms to fold sheets of steel over curves to form complex and lightweight shapes.

Stilfold previously used the approach to build an electric scooter. According to the company, the techniques resulted in 70% fewer components, a 40%  reduction in weight, 20% lower material costs, and 25% lower labor costs.

The team believes such savings could be particularly powerful in space, where they could allow complex structures to be constructed with minimal materials and components. In addition, the method doesn’t require any stamping or welding. 

Stilfold co-founder Jonas Nyvang envisions unfolding vehicles and food storage facilities in outer space.

“You can’t bring much to space, because it takes up limited room,”  he told TNW. “The flexibility of our technology makes it possible to bring stacked sheets that you can store easily, and then create stuff by unfolding it when you’re there.”

To test the theory, Stilfold will work with Sweden’s International Space Asset Acceleration Company (ISSAC), a new organization backed by the ESA and Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang,

The team will now spend 12 months exploring the possibilities.

STILFOLD co-founders Jonas Nyvang and Tue Beijer