Sep 7, 2015 | By Tess

Researchers at both MIT and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel have recently teamed up in order facilitate and potentially revolutionize the process of 3D printing design modifications through their program named Fab Forms.

Typically, additive manufacturing designs are quite complex and modifications require a significant amount of time to process. That is, designing 3D prints normally requires knowledge and relative expertise in CAD applications, in which designs are created and adjusted through various numerical values and fields. Additionally, making modifications to the designs requires several minutes per adjustment as the CAD applications must test and approve the new design for printing.

Seeking to speed up and make the design process more accessible to those with less CAD experience, Masha Shugrina, one of Fab Forms's developers and an MIT graduate student in computer science and engineering, along with her colleagues, set out to create a system that would ultimately allow for modifications to be made to 3D printing designs simply by adjusting sliders on the screen with the design image changing accordingly. As stated on MIT's CFG webpage, "We define Fab Forms as any design representation that lends itself to interactive customization by a novice use, while remaining valid and manufacturable."

Fab Forms works on the basis that it essentially pre-calculates the test results from any shape or size adjustments to the object's design, effectively cutting out the time it would take to do so for each change made. The system works by taking an already designed CAD model and then creates variations on its design by slightly altering the numerical parameters.

Then, several high-performance computers running on a cloud-based network test the variations (there can be hundreds of thousands of them), subsequently positing the approved modifications in a database. The database of test results is then made accessible through a web page on which users can simply adjust sliders bars to modify the design.

What is perhaps most exciting about Fab Forms, and what sets it apart from other similar systems such as Project Shapeshifter, is that the adjustments made on the sliders are all approved by the pre-conducted tests, meaning that they are ready to be 3D printed. In other words, Fab Forms essentially weeds out the designs that cannot be manufactured, showing only the possible modifications.

Though for the moment only a handful of original CAD 3D printing designs and their variations have been loaded onto the database – for their tests MIT and Herzliya researchers used only eight designs, including a coffee mug, a toy car, and a high heeled shoe – the Fab Forms interface undoubtedly has the potential to make the process of 3D printing design more accessible and customizable for less experienced makers.



Posted in 3D Design



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