Apr. 27, 2015 | By Simon

When developing new product design concepts, 3D printing is among one of the fastest ways of iterating through multiple concepts in an effort to find the best design direction.  After all, 3D printing didn’t just adopt the term “rapid prototyping” for no reason; what used to take months or weeks now only takes days or hours.  But what if the process could be sped up even more?  For all of the luxuries that additive manufacturing has provided in the product development process, is it possible to omit the need to waste precious resources and time to gain iterative models that may not necessarily need to be 3D printed in order to test their functionality?

These are the questions that a group of researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany recently asked themselves and what has resulted is an entirely new way of thinking about getting parts made fast - thanks in no small part to laser cutting.

The research team, which includes the well-known German engineer Stefanie Mueller - creator of WirePrint and faBrickator - ended up with a new software offering  that speeds up the prototyping process by extracting straight and curved plates from a 3D model and substituting them with laser cut parts of the same size and thickness.  Additional members of the team include Dustin Beyer and Serafima Gurevich - who were responsible for the implementation of the software, Hsiang-Ting Chen - who worked on the graphical interface and Patrick Baudisch, the head of the Hasso Plattner Institute’s Human Computer Interaction Lab.  

Called Platener, the new software is capable of selecting specific regions of a 3D model that are of relevance to a current design iteration and then automatically creating laser cut-ready files based on the dimensions.  Additionally, the software intelligently places joints to connect multiple pieces if necessary.  The resulting products can be created in minutes to test design features that may not necessarily need to be 3D printed over the course of hours - something that they are hoping will dramatically speed up the product development process.  

“Platener is designed to best preserve the fidelity of functional objects, such as casings and mechanical tools, all of which contain a large percentage of straight/rectilinear elements,” adds the Platener team.

To ensure that their system worked as intended, Mueller and team converted 2,250 3D models that they downloaded from Thingiverse.  When using Platener, the team was able to speed up the production speed by 10x for at least 39.5% of all of the randomly-selected objects on the 3D model sharing site.    

To use the software, a user simply uploads their 3D file, specifies fidelity-speed tradeoffs, chooses whether or not to convert curved surfaces to plates that can be bent using heat, as well as specifying the conversion of individual plates and joints interactively.  When compared to other low-fab systems - such as the Mueller-created faBrickator and WirePrint - Platener better preserves the stability and functionality of the objects and the resulting assemblies have fewer parts that are more true to the final 3D printed iteration.

The team presented Platener at the CHI conference in Seoul last week.  While the software is working, there is no estimated release date or cost at this time.  


Posted in 3D Software


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A&I Metal Finishing wrote at 5/5/2015 5:45:37 AM:

Great post and I must say you have provided heaps of useful information on powder coating on MDF and its use as an excellent surface finishing method. We also do custom powder coating services at http://aimetalfinishing.com and intend to provide more information about the topic. I agree, there is a bright future indeed in powder coating industry. Looking forward for more posts.

Dean wrote at 4/28/2015 2:24:07 PM:

I'd like to know more about the energy savings. I suspect the laser method is method is also considerably more green, in both total fabrication energy and material energy consumption. 14.5 hours vs. the 1 hour version. (Granted, I'm not sure how long the heat gun [~1500 Watts?] was needed to bend the surrounding edge- but hopefully just 3 minutes.) ... And don't forget the material--- filament takes a lot of energy and time to extrude vs sheet stock. Time to use this optimized method to "print" our next car or house! Hey aren't we supposed to be living in glass houses now anyway! Great article! I'm inspired and hopeful for the future!

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