Engineers Make Origami-Inspired Surgical Tools

April 26, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. incision / ɪnˈsɪʒ ən / (n.) – a cut made using a sharp tool
Example: The doctors sealed the incision on his stomach after the operation.

2. counterpart / ˈkaʊn tərˌpɑrt / (n.) – a person or thing that has the same function as someone or something
Example: A beeper is one of the oldest counterparts of modern phones.

3. invasive / ɪnˈveɪ sɪv / (adj.) – in the medical field, it refers to procedures that involve cutting through the body and inserting something, like a tool
Example: A heart operation is a highly invasive surgery.

4. fusion / ˈfyu ʒən / (n.) – the combination of two things into one
Example: The doctor uses a fusion of old and new healing techniques.

5. virtually / ˈvɜr tʃu ə li / (adv.) – mostly or almost absolutely
Example: Some of the youth know virtually nothing about old art.


Read the text below.
Mechanical engineers from the Brigham Young University in Utah are designing surgical instruments inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

The goal of the project is to reduce the size of surgical tools so that they could fit into very small incisions. These incisions could heal without the need for stitches, therefore allowing faster recovery.

The engineers reduced the size of the tools by making them capable of being shrunk and expanded, just as origami can be folded and unfolded. The engineers also used simpler structures for the tools, since the natural flexibility of the designs would eliminate the need for other parts.

For example, based on the structure of origami “chompers,” the team was able to design forceps that are only 3 mm small. These smaller forceps no longer use joints and hinges found in its older counterparts.

The surgical tools would be controlled robotically. Some of the team’s creations have already been licensed for the use of Intuitive Surgical, one of the innovators in using robotics to make surgeries less invasive.

Aside from the surgical tools, the fusion of origami and modern technology can also be found in other innovations.

Robotics expert Jamie Paik is developing “robogami,” a robot made of light and paper-thin materials that can transform by folding itself and perform movements like crawling or jumping. According to its maker, it has the potential to form virtually anything from tables to airplanes, depending on how it is programmed.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you be willing to undergo a surgery that uses the origami-inspired tools? Why or why not?
·         If you had a robogami, how would you use it?

Discussion B

·         Aside from those mentioned above, in what other fields do you think origami can be applied?
·         How else can modern technology use an old tradition or art form? Give your own idea.

April 26, 2016