Researchers at the MIT teamed up with the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel to develop a system that automatically turns CAD files into 3D printable models which can be modified in real time.
The system dubbed Fab Forms was first introduced at the Siggraph conference in August. By sweeping through a wide range of values for the design’s parameters, up to a few hundred thousand versions with different geometries are stored in a database. The system automatically discards parameter values that would lead to unprintable or unstable designs. In a user interface, various sliders can be used to change the model’s parameters. Once you have decided on the final design, you can simply sent it off to your 3D printer.
Researchers experimented with a total of eight designs, including the mug in the pictures above. Available options varied from only a few thousand to hundreds of thousands samples. Although some clever techniques had been developed to compress data through similarities in design variations, the largest data set still took up 17 gigabytes of memory.
Autodesk offers a similar application called Project Shapeshifter, where sliders can be used to set parameters and change the 3D model accordingly. However, this application shows a common problem, explains Ryan Schmidt, senior principal research scientist at Autodesk: “That you can very easily make something that won’t work on your printer. What I thought was super-exciting about this work is that it can prevent you from designing something that isn’t going to print or that isn’t going to be strong enough once you’ve printed it.”