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Any Paper Engineers here? Math skills come in handy?

Or, are you a visual, figure it out by looking type?

I know that what we all are doing here is paper engineering... but, are you actually using math? What's your approach? how much fiddling and back and forth problem solving do you do?

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I'm sort of surprised no one has posted anything here, but I'm guessing it's because no one is using any explicit math in their work.

While technically true, referring to what most paper toy makers are doing as "paper engineering" is akin to saying that a sculptor is doing material engineering.

If you are using some sort of drawing tool (3D or not) then the tool likely handles the things where you might otherwise need some calculations.

From what I've seen, people use a mix of graphic tools, freehand drawing, and experiments to get what they want.

Unless you are trying to have exact proportions or tricky folds I doubt any real math is needed.

One area that does seem to involve some deliberate math, and is more of an engineering pursuit, is pop-up books and cards.

It's a recent interest of mine, and so far I can see that for various effects you need to be sure that the cuts and angles are precise.

But some experiments show me that you can do a lot by playing around.
Yesterday, I used "π" to solve a problem (woopie!!!)... but, mostly I'm a strong visual thinker and rely on these skills to get me through the day. It amazes me the complex work being generated here so, I would think that math probably comes in handy for many—possibly speeding up some of the processes. For me, this work seems to be a slow process ...but, if I had to rely on my math skills it would even be slower :-)
I also use the Pythagorean theorem as Marshall explained, but most of the time I just copy a part of a rectangle and rotate it...

I have another math rule that I use sometimes: the circumference of a circle.
As Marshall described I also make front/side view sketches and create the rest of the model. When I want to create a tube in a papertoy, the front/side view both show rectangles so that is the diameter of a circle/tube. When you calculate the circumference of the circle you know the length of the rectangle which will be the outside of the tube.

A couple of years ago I needed it for something but couldn't remember the "rules", so I wrote a post on my blog about it with a little flash-application to calculate it.
When I wrote the post, I didn't know what it was called in English so the post is in Dutch.

But because of this question I've update the post with some English
Good stuff, it comes in handy, defenetely! Thanks
my stuff is either too simple or too complex for the math i'm capable of to be useful. a ruler, logic, some string, and the document info (object) window in illustrator is all I use.

I use the ruler and string to measure lines from my handmade roughs and then i trouble shoot the design in illustrator using it's super precise tools. i use this method for everything including complex shapes like dome's and such.

despite my cave man like instruments i still think of my self as an engineer and a sculptor. With papercraft you are both making a sculpture and designing the method to manufacture it from paper. given how complex this task can be and how much potential variation there is in it i think it is fair to call it engineering.
okay, the string idea is just brilliant! I've done this before and wasn't making the connection with my paper toys... thx
the string is a good idea, indeed. I came to this post via Google looking for an in-Illustrator-string to make sure my curve is the same length as my straight segment. I am testing the plugin SnapMeasure, but do not see it giving me that curve segment measure.

Anyone know a way to measure an Illustrator curve?

And you paper toy people are so cool. I will always think of you as "papersmiths" which seems to span the divide of artist and engineer while giving due elevation to the medium.
Hey, it's been a while since you responded to this thread...was wondering if you ever found the plugin and if you found it useful after all?
[thumbs up]
I don't think this works for everyone, but I eyeball a lot of my stuff. I can usually visualize how something will fit together when folded. I usually make a couple of prototypes. First one is a plain paper one, where I figure out size and so forth, plain paper makes it easy to cut and fold adjustments to the model. The second is on card stock and is usually as close to the finished model with just minor tweaks needed. I'm sure if I knew (or remembered) some Geometry or something, it would make life easier, but who knows.

Stay Ghoul!
Uncle Ghastly
I'm an eye-baller(ha!) too. Maybe I would just feel better about myself if I knew the math!? I'm sure I would use it if I knew how. But, I will work with what I've got!

you know those moments in high school math when you ask yourself, "when am i ever going to need this?" well i just had a flashback as i tried to remember how to figure out the circumference of a circle. thankfully there's this thing called the internet with an answer for just about everything [except for the continuing popularity of bieber...}


anyway, i fall more into the line of mash it together until it works, takes a lot of time, but then again, so does going back and learning all that math.


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