Papercraft invites a diverse range of people, notably children, to investigate art, craft and mechanics through hands-on making. Paper, which is thin, lightweight, ubiquitous, and inexpensive, enables people who have only basic technical skills to work in this playful creative and educational medium. Today, the design space of papercraft can be enlarged with recent high-low technology innovations: electronics and computing components can add autonomous movement and interaction to papercraft objects. We call this interdisciplinary domain “Paper Mechatronics”—the combination of mechanisms, electronics, and computation with the traditional cutting and folding activities of papercraft.
Inspired by two kinetic art works, Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest and Matthew Gardiner’s Oribotics, we have worked on two examples, walking machines and flowers, that illustrate the way in which paper mechatronics can develop into an engaging creative design medium. The walker constructions are based on Jansen’s mechanism: a rotating central disk with opposing quadrilateral-based legs. The rotating disk deforms the two quadrilaterals, producing the walking motion. The flower constructions are based on a rack and pinion mechanism: a pair of gears that convert rotation into linear motion. As the pinion (a circular gear) rotates, the rack (a linear gear) travels, generating the up and down motion of the base of the flower. This animates the opening and closing motion of the petals.