Apr. 13, 2015 | By Simon

Among the many software companies that focus on creating digital tools for empowering designers, it’s hard to not bring up Adobe.  Between their Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects, Dreamweaver and other expansive portfolio of applications, there is seemingly everything for everybody from photographers and graphic designers to web developers and filmmakers to even podcasters.  But despite the many digital craft mediums that Adobe has tackled, creating 3D content - or to be more specific, 3D printable content - hasn’t been an area that they’ve aggressively gone after compared to many other creative applications that they’ve seemingly mastered.  

Although this might appear to make sense considering that creating 3D content is usually done in dedicated CAD software such as Rhino, SolidWorks, MODO, Sketchup, TinkerCAD or ZBrush, the company has previously dabbled with creating 3D print-friendly tools that ‘play nice’ with their Photoshop software...however despite their efforts they have been nowhere near at the scale they have gone after other creative areas such as professional web development, photography or filmmaking.

3D Printing in Photoshop CC

Now, it appears that the company’s original plans may have been more complex than just a few Photoshop tools that were designed to allow users to easily create 3D printable objects from 2D images.   

Recently, a patent that was originally filed by the company in September of 2013 has been published online that gives light to some more complicated software development that the company had quietly been working on that had little to do with actual content creation, but rather, the quality of 3D prints.

The patent - Smooth 3D Printing Using Multi-Stage Filaments  - is described in the abstract as “techniques and apparatuses for smooth 3D printing using multi-stage filaments. These techniques are capable of creating smoother surfaces than many current techniques. In some cases, the techniques determine a portion of a surface of a 3D object that includes, or will include, a printing artifact or is otherwise not smooth, and then applies multi-stage filaments to provide a smoothing surface over that portion”.

More detailed specifications surrounding the patent describe it as a method for creating much more desirable results when using a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer such as those manufactured by MakerBot, Ultimaker and the open source RepRap 3D printers.  

The invention, which was filed by Adobe Industries, Inc. is credited to Principal Scientist at Adobe’s Imagination Lab, Radomir Mech.

“I am a researcher and a manager at Adobe Systems, Inc,” writes Mech on the Adobe Research website.   

“I manage a group in Imagination Lab at Adobe Research that focuses on easy 3D modeling, procedural modeling, rendering and graphics design. My areas of research are procedural modeling, with a particular focus on interaction with procedural models, rendering, and 3D printing.”

Perhaps it should come with little surprise then, that Mech’s background in 3D modeling and 3D printing helped shape this new technology that, while it is yet to be released, would be a godsend for many FDM 3D printer users who struggle with “stepping” or other FDM 3D printer-based imperfections that relate to misshapen layers that subsequently affect the layers printed on top of them (AKA "steps" or "stairs").  

Among other claims put forth in the patent include a method for verifying an imperfection and layering a “smoothing surface” over the imperfect layer or layers ("steps" or "stairs"), the ability to adjust the angle and resolution of the “smoothing surface” using temperature control, the ability to reference original CAD data to further determine the need and/or execution of a “smoothing layer” and finally, an option to use an external sensor-based controller installed on a nozzle that may be able to determine in real-time if a flaw exists and then automatically correct that flaw with a “smoothing surface”.

Creating a 3D printed iPhone case using Photoshop CC

Although Adobe has been making strides toward making their software more 3D printer-friendly, this is among one of the more ambitious attempts that we’ve seen yet.  While it’s not exactly clear if the technology was designed to be used specifically with Photoshop, it’s at least another step in the right direction for Adobe to increase the amount of tools in the modern day, multi-media digital creator’s toolbox.  



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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