Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Modular Assembly Systems
An assembly system is the way in which the modules self-integrate to create the modular form. The analysis presented on this page is neither complete nor exhaustive. Modular designers often combine elements of different assembly systems within the same design and are always inventing new techniques.

It is a common misconception that modular designs are largely held together by friction. In fact this is rarely the case.

  Glue, Tape and Thread

Technically designs which are held together by glue, tape or thread are multi-piece glued. taped or threaded arrangements rather than modular designs. For a more detailed explanation of why this is see Definitions and Notes. The picture to the left is of my Spiky design which is a sticky note design held together by the sticky part of the notes.

Tab and Pocket designs

The most common assembly system strategy used in modular origami design is to supply each module with a set of tabs and pockets, the tabs of one module being inserted into the pocket of another during the assembly process. The strengthy of the link between the modules is commonly increased by by inserting the tabs around the angle of a fold within the pocket. The Sonobe module is the best known example of a module of this kind.

  Wraparound Weave designs

In a wraparound weave system the modules are arranged so that they wrap around (at least part of) the outside of each other and so hold each other in place. Good examples of this type of design are the traditional 6-Card Cube (shown to the left), David Brill's Waterbombic Dodecahedron or my own 6-part Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedron (in which the modules are themselves three-dimensional forms).

Compact Weave designs

In a compact weave design the modules are assembled so that part (normally half) the module goes outside of, and part (yes, normally the other half) inside of adjacent modules. The stability of this assembly system depends entirely on the overall shape of the form. Some, like Paul Jackson's Cuboctahedron, pictured right, are completely stable, while others are very delicate structures indeed.

  Self-tab-and-pocket designs

In some compact weave designs the configuration in which the modules are held as a result of the weave is such that parts of the module are effectively formed into tabs and other parts into sockets. This can be called a self-tab-and-pocket system. Robert Neale's Octahedron (pictured left) is the classic example of this technique.

Mutual Compression

This assembly system trelies on the resilience of paper to compression. Effectively, a part of each module is compressed slightly by being inserted between one of more adjacent modules, which in turn are compressed by others etc. The resistance of the paper to this compression locks the design together. The best known example of a mutual compression design is probanbly Paul jackson's Cube (pictured right).