Feb 11, 2016 | By Kira

One of 3D printing technology’s greatest advantages when it comes to product design is the ability for manufacturers to control every single aspect of the object’s physical from—layer by layer, top to bottom, and most importantly, from the inside out. Exploiting this asset, a team of researchers from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria, has developed a new method for 3D printing that, using mathematical optimization, produces objects with seemingly impossible geometric properties.

For example, a plastic fish that maintains a precise floating position just below the surface of the water, a self-balancing bunny, or a turtle-shaped spinning top. While these types of ‘toys’ would normally require intense physics calculations and dozens of prototypes to pull-off, TU Vienna’s mathematical software can automatically optimize the physical requirements of the 3D printed object.

The secret to this method lies in a software program that can automatically calculate the optimal wall thickness or internal structure based on specific data input. For example, the floating fish was designed with a hollow space whose density matches that of different liquids—in this case, water. Though invisible from the outside, the cavity prevents the fish from sinking to the bottom, or flipping over onto its back or side. Similarly, the software carefully analyzed and adjusted the turtle’s rotation axis so that it could maintain balance while spinning.

Another “impossible” 3D printed object is a slanted plastic bottle. When filled with water, the bottle tips over, spilling its contents. But, when filled with alcohol, it stays perfectly balanced. Though it you can’t tell by looking at it, the bottle was 3D printed with one side being much thicker than the other, shifting its center of gravity. Water, which has a higher liquid density than alcohol, thus causes it to lose balance and fall over. The exact measurements for just how thick to 3D print each side, as well as the dimensions of the hollow inner cavity, required careful, precise measurement, yet were easily achieved with the Shape Optimization software.

The TU Vienna team, which collaborated with RWTH Aachen University, was led by Przemyslaw Musialski, a senior researcher at the Institute of Computer Graphics and Algorithms. He explained that his team’s 3D printing method has a number of advantages. Namely, it is extremely fast, taking only a few seconds to generate calculations, and it greatly reduces the risk of error compared to other product optimization processes. He believes that the software could be used to design unique new products, technical spare parts, or decorative objects that look normal from the outside, but exhibit surprising physical properties in specific circumstances.

Musialski has been awarded the Austrian Computer Graphics Award (ACCA) in the category of “Best Technical Solution” for this novel 3D printing software.

The Shape Optimization 3D printing method takes advantage of the already-high level of control CAD designers have when it comes to creating 3D printable models, by adding a new dimension of mathematical precision. While it has many useful applications in the field of novel product design, that “impossible” 3D printed bottle is at the top of our list for a great party trick idea.

Check out all of the “impossible” 3D printed objects in the video below:



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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:DH wrote at 2/11/2016 6:28:27 PM:

I wonder how this software differs from the Disney optimization used for designing spinning tops: http://www.3ders.org/articles/20140812-disney-can-turn-almost-any-3d-printed-object-into-a-spinning-top.html

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