STOCKHOLM—Swedish design and technology company STILFOLD has formed a strategic partnership with high-speed train manufacturer Alstom. They will explore how origami-inspired manufacturing technology can be used to make the process of building trains more environmentally sustainable.

STILFOLD’s patented technology, dubbed “industrial origami”, involves the use of robotic arms to fold flat sheet metal over curves to form strong and sustainable new structures, using a minimal amount of components. The process eliminates the need for cutting, welding and joining, reducing material waste, energy consumption and production time while increasing structural strength.

Alstom engineers will explore how the steel bending technology could improve how the structures and components used in locomotive and railcars are produced. The goal is to use fewer raw materials, reduce the weight of different components and improve the strength and durability of rail vehicles.

Rail travel already generates significantly less emissions than travelling by plane or car.

“[Our] aim is to power sustainable manufacturing practices across every industry,” says Jonas Nyvang, CEO of STILFOLD. “Mobility is a key focus for us, which is why we’re so excited to be moving into the rail sector through this collaboration with Alstom. Rail travel has always been one of the most environmentally-friendly modes of transport, but it could be made even greener by optimizing train construction for sustainability”

"[This] is a very interesting and promising technology where we see many potential applications going forward,” adds Ganesh Chandramouli, head of innovation, strategy and portfolio at Alstom Sweden. “If we can find solutions that are both more environmentally friendly and cost-effective, it is natural for us to take a closer look at how we can best utilize it.”

STILFOLD engineers have already created a sustainable lightweight electric motorcycle made almost entirely from recycled steel. They’re also working with Polestar to build the world’s first climate-neutral car.