3D Design By Example

By on August 19th, 2014 in Ideas, research, Software

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Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have developed a new twist on 3D design by creating “Fab By Example”. 

The new software system explores a different method of 3D design for fabrication by automatically including a variety of required computations and inclusions. Superficially, FBE is a drag and drop system. You select components and drop them onto the growing model, but then the magic occurs. 

A component is automatically attached to other parts using appropriately sized and spaced connectors for the material. All components are parametric, meaning you can adjust their size numerically. In FBE, you not only change one component in this way, but all connected parts also react appropriately. You’ll have to watch the video to get the idea. 

We’re excited because this approach vastly simplifies the workflow for creating complex, multi-component objects. You don’t have to tediously generate carefully spaced holes and posts – only to throw away all your work later when you resize something. FBE does it automatically. 

In this model, if you stretch the bridge on the right, FBE automatically re-spaces and inserts/removes cross pieces as required – on the fly!  

At this stage, FBE is simply a demonstration and it’s not available as a product you can use. However, the approach clearly shows what’s possible and we hope someone converts these concepts into a real product. 

FBE seems to be focused on traditional fabrication. For example, its output is a “bill of materials” or blueprints for cutting pieces and assembling them. This isn’t 3D printer-capable, be we believe the concept could certainly be applied to 3D design for 3D printing. Imagine if you could quickly design a complex object with multiple correctly attached parts and then receive a batch of STL files ready for printing. 

Print, assemble, done. 


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!