This winter, I am fortunate enough to be taking one of the only two paper engineering courses offered in the nation. The course focuses on exploring the medium of paper through movable works of art. Currently, we are using pop-up books as a starting point to learn the elements of paper mechanics so that later, we can apply them to book arts, collapsible structures, interactive kinetic sculptures, and wearable design. So far, the course has challenged us because we have to visualize these three-dimensional forms in our head and recreate them on paper. Like other design courses I have taken, this one also gives us the opportunity to develop our design thinking, research process and manifestation of our ideas. By the end of this course, I hope to have gained a perceptive understanding of paper manipulation and be able to relate it to other mediums and disciplines such as deployable architecture, industrial design, and package design.
Below is our first assignment—design a pop-up card that celebrates a fictional holiday. I chose Star Trek, because I’ve been a fan of the series ever since I can remember. From this project, I developed two new techniques for myself—aligning the laser cutter to a print and laser cutting without leaving any burn marks. If you’re unfamiliar with the laser cutter, those 2 techniques become quite tricky to achieve. Luckily, I’ve been using the laser cutter for about 3 years now, so it was about time I figured something new out.
Cover: A textured grey paper exposes a metallic yellow paper through die-cut type and Star Trek emblem
Upon opening the card, the Borg cube pops up. This structure is called an “angle fold box with crossing planes.” It’s intended for a 180º spread and has 8 crossing planes with slots. I created this structure by aligning the laser cutter to a printed page so that I could get perfect cuts on all the pieces. This design is extremely unforgiving and a wrong cut could cause the structure to fold incorrectly. Thank goodness for the laser cutter. I intend to post a tutorial on aligning the laser cutter to a printed page when I get a chance.
Also on the initial spread is a structure called a “tube post armature.” It reads “Resistance is futile,” which is a phrase the Borg use. HA trust me, it gets way nerdier… just wait. Within the tube post armature is a second layer of yellow paper so the type really pops from the black background. The 2 flaps on the side are also die-cut and expose the underlying black layer. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the black paper is also textured.
Once you open the 2 grey flaps, 6 starships from the Federation Alliance surround the Borg vessel! The top left ship is a Romulan Warbird sitting on a “congruent angled fold” so that opening the card gives the ship a flying motion. Across the spread is the USS Defiant sitting on the same fold, but mirrored. Moving down to the middle ships is an Akira class starship to the left and a Romulan Bird of Prey on the right. Both of which are sitting on “parallel strut folds.” The Enterprise D in the bottom right also rests on a parallel strut fold. The bottom left starship is a Klingon Bird of Prey and is unique because it sits on a different type of parallel strut fold. Much like the actual ship, the wings replicate a rising motion as the flap opens further. This mechanism is achieved through inverted angular strut folds under each wing.
This is the design file of the entire card mapped out. Click to make it larger.