Paper Waveguides

4 years ago

Modifying audio and optical waves without electronics using computational origami and digital fabrication.


Audio and optical waves are affected by impedance and governed by the same rules as analog electronics. Manipulation of audio waves has been used in speakers for over a century. It's not entirely accurate to say that they amplify light and sound, but by reducing impedance, you can make a speaker sound louder or make a light appear brighter by guiding the waves and minimizing the loss of energy. I back this project at the The Supplyframe Design Lab in February of 2018 and have continued improving on it over the years.

A simple audio waveform guide for an iPhone
an initial sketch for an origami speaker design


The mathematical equations for spirals, parabolas and hyperbolas are translated into code and create splines and outlines in 2D. I lifted the math from Tomoko Fuse's book called "Spiral".

Equations for spirals lifted from existing research & Tomoko Fuse's "Spirals"


I created the shapes of the waveform guides using a parametric script that I wrote in Python with the Fusion 360 API. The script generated an initial set of triangles with a chosen number of sides. I added some parameters through the UI to make further adjustments live without having to re-run the script. IN the video I am adjusting both rho and sigma to change the shape.

Parameter adjustments in Fusion 360 – allows you to adjust len, rho and sigma


I rigged my CNC mill to draw / cut the outlines and create the interior fold lines – which saves a lot of work. Laser cutting at highly controlled settings works just as well. The mill was controlled through Fusion 360s CAM software.

final result


I used the same techniques above to create a parabolic softbox that cost about $40 and works beautifully!

Interior and exterior of softbox


Portrait taken with the parabolic softbox used as the only light source.

photo credit: Catwalk Studios

Hunter Futo

Published 4 years ago