Scientists Adding '3D Print' Button to Animation Software
"With an animation, you always have to view it on a two-dimensional screen, but this allows you to just print it and take an actual look at it in 3D," says Bächer. "I think that’s helpful to the artists and animators, to see how it actually feels in reality and get some feedback. Right now, perhaps they can print a static scene, just a character in one stance, but they can’t see how it really moves. If you print one of these articulated figures, you can experiment with different stances and movements in a natural way, as with an artist’s mannequin."
Bächer's model does not allow deformations beyond the joints, so squishy, stretchable bodies are not yet captured in this process. But that type of printed character might be possible by incorporating other existing techniques.
For instance, in 2010, Pfister, Bächer, and Bickel were part of a group of researchers who replicated an entire flip-flop sandal using a multi-material 3D printer. The printed sandal mimicked the elasticity of the original foam rubber and cloth. With some more development, a later iteration of the "3D-print button" could include this capability.
"Perhaps in the future someone will invent a 3D printer that prints the body and theelectronics in one piece," Bächer muses. "Then you could create the complete animated character at the push of a button and have it run around on your desk."
Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has filed a patent application and is working with the Pfister Lab to commercialize the new technology by licensing it to an existing company or by forming a start-up. Their near-term areas of interest include cloud-based services for creating highly customized, user-generated products, such as toys, and enhancing existing animation and 3D printer software with these capabilities.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Pixar, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Source: Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences