Engineers from Brigham Young University (BYU) have developed a foldable bulletproof kevlar shield that can be quickly set up in an emergency to protect law enforcement operatives from gunfire.

Inspired by the Japanese Yoshimura origami crease pattern, the shield can be assembled and taken down in less than five seconds to provide both side and front-facing protection from bullets shot by powerful handguns like 9 mm, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum pistols.

At the moment, police SWAT team shields are flat and mostly made from steel, which makes them heavy and cumbersome to manoeuvre and move into position during a emergencies. However, the BYU shield is made from 12 layers of bulletproof kevlar fabric and weighs just 55 pounds (25kg), as opposed to standard shields, which weigh 100 pounds.

"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 and research team member. "Then you can easily fold it up and move it if you need to advance your position."

Kevlar fabric is very flexible, but it is susceptible to fraying and abrasion, whilst also being sensitive to sunlight and water. So the researchers reinforced the fabric and made sure the protypr shield is extremely stiff and protective, while still being easy to fold up.

"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."