I can already hear some folks repulsively spitting and exclaiming, “wonders shall never cease”, in mock awe! Lexus is known for their ground-breaking and controversial line of products and innovations. Remember the Lexus Hoverboards? This time they might have however have gone a little too far. They built a full-sized car out of mere cardboard! Hey, calm your nerves! It’s not for public release. Now you can breathe! This daring thrust by Lexus was inspired by the growing art of making stuff out of cardboard. This twisted type of art is known as ‘Origami’. Which means making shapes and designs out of paper folded into intricate patterns.
When you look at a piece of origami art, you probably see a crane, an owl, a butterfly or a fish. Lexus saw a whole car. Lexus UK re-created its IS sedan in an unusual medium: cardboard. Inspired by the art of origami, the recyclable sculpture is said to have required 1,700 pieces of cardboard, each one precision-shaped to work with the others. Even the wheels are made from cardboard! How cool and crazy is that?
The most experienced and revered members of the Lexus production lines — the black belts of of the car-building world — are known as takumi. These are the masters of their respective trades, be it paint or engine-assembly or wood veneer, and one of the tests of takumi’s manual dexterity, says Lexus, is the making of a folded-paper cat using only the non-dominant hand. It’s an impressive little party trick, to be sure, and that kind of fine motor skill, applied to the task of building a car, can yield impressive results.
Ermm. Time to do some confession. The car isn’t just a solid block. A steel and aluminium frame hides underneath. The doors open, the interior is complete with seats and cup holders. It’s fitted with headlights. Even more impressive is the inclusion of an electric motor that allows it to be driven, though it might not pass as street-legal. Lexus partnered with UK design firms LaserCut Works and Scales and Models to build the Origami Car, a full-size, almost-fully-functional replica of the IS sport sedan. They worked with a digital 3D model of the original IS. The cardboard is laser-cut in 10mm-thick (less than half an inch) slices. It was assembled by hand, and wood glue keeps it all together. . The car is comprised of a steel and aluminium frame and 1,700 laser-cut sheets of corrugated cardboard — fully recyclable, of course. It features a complete interior, working doors, functioning headlights and rolling wheels. There’s even an electric motor in there. Working from digital 3D model of the IS, the team divided the project into sections — main body, dashboard, seats, wheels and so on. Each section was then digitally rendered as 10mm-thick “slices” and that data was then fed into a laser cutter. Each of the car’s 1,700 pieces got its own sequential reference number, which the team followed as they assembled the layers using a water-based wood glue — a process that took three months to complete.
The team admits there were some false starts. “The seats took a few attempts to get just right and the wheels required a lot of refining,” said Ruben Marcos, Scales and Models Company founder and
director. “Once we could see the physical pieces taking shape, we could identify where we needed to make improvements – as with anything, there were some elements of trial and error, but as we had all the resources we needed in-house, this made the changes easier to produce.”
The Origami Car won’t likely be doing any laps around a test course or driving to the grocery store. It’s really a work of art, meant to be seen and admired, and it’s definitely a clever way to see a car in a different light. The lines of the design really stand out when you’re not distracted by paint, chrome and technical specifications. This car is for the true admirers of art and aesthetics.
Lexus will officially unveil the cardboard car tomorrow the 8th of October at the NEC exhibition. Keep it locked here tomorrow for updates. At present, there are no plans for production. You can go testify in church.