Origami Kevlar shield stops .44 Magnum

Engineers at Brigham Young University have developed an origami-inspired ballistic shield that can protect multiple people from gunfire.

(Credit: Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

Designed to be portable, the device weighs 25kg and folds almost flat when not in use. It has 12 layers of Kevlar surrounding an aluminium core and uses a Yoshimura origami crease pattern to expand. Deployment takes approximately five seconds, with the shield providing protection from the side as well as the front.

“We worked with a federal special agent to understand what their needs were, as well as SWAT teams, police officers and law enforcement, and found that the current solutions are often too heavy and not as portable as they would like,” said Larry Howell, professor of mechanical engineering at BYU.

“We wanted to create something that was compact, portable, lightweight and worked really well to protect them.”

The team tested the shield on a range of handguns, including a Smith & Wesson 9mm, a .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, with the device successfully stopping bullets from all three pistols.

“Those are significant handguns with power,” Howell said. “We suspected that something as large as a .44 Magnum would actually tip it over, but that didn’t happen. The barrier is very stable, even with large bullets hitting it.”

Whereas traditional ballistic shields are generally designed to protect a single user, the BYU shield provides cover for two to three people. As dangerous situations develop, it can be folded easily and moved to a new location rapidly, or carried when expanded to provide protection on the go.

“It goes from a very compact state that you can carry around in the trunk of a car to something you can take with you, open up and take cover behind to be safe from bullets,” said Terri Bateman, BYU adjunct professor of engineering. “Then you can easily fold it up and move it if you need to advance your position.”

The researchers say the shield could also provide protection to a wounded person in an emergency situation, as well as for children in the event of an attack on a school.