Oct 7, 2016 | By Nick

Every committed 3D modeler has felt the pain of creating the perfect figurine only to find it just won’t stand up. Now Disney Research has developed a unique method for embedding movable metal ball bearings inside 3D printed figurines to help them balance.

The company behind the likes of Mickey Mouse has published a research paper on the subject, called: Balancing 3D Models with Movable Models. Right now the practical application is in development, but we should soon have software that does all the calculations for you.

Right now we either have to change the design of a model that just won't stand up or, more commonly, fit a base plate. That works, on land, but it means we can only present the figurine one way and it does detract from the overall design.

It certainly doesn’t give us any control of how the model behaves in water and it takes all the flexibility out of the model in terms of how we can display it. Simply placing ball bearings in a figurine’s feet could be all it takes for some people, but the software will be cleverer than that.

With the simple algorithm you will finally be able to present your characters as you want them. Disney produced a breakdancing teddy bear to illustrate their point that could stand in six separate positions with the help of two different cavities. It sounds simple, but there’s actually some seriously complex math at play as two different cavities of different sizes can interact with each other to create a multitude of different centers of gravity.

With embedded movable masses, we have the unique capability to satisfy multiple balancing objectives simultaneously,” the research team explains. “Depending on the pose of the model, the masses will be at different locations, resulting in different centers of mass. With a single center of mass, most objectives would be incompatible. Therefore, we introduce an optimization able to handle a multitude of objectives.”

You might want your figurine to do a handstand, or stand on one leg, depending on your mood. Now you don’t need to worry about your model being technically unbalanced, the ball bearing will give it the weight it needs in the right place. It can also affect the center of buoyancy to ensure that a model sits perfectly in water, which could be handy for Ariel or Aquaman.

Models with movable parts could take on a whole new character depending on the position of the part containing the heavy metal. Disney proved the point with a ‘muscle gnome’, which could stand comfortably when articulated to the left, but falls to the ground when the upper body is moved to the right. It’s a clever optical illusion as there’s no obvious reason why it should fall from the outside.

The best part is that it will all be done for you. You can determine how your figurine will float in water, or not, how it will stand and you want it to hang from a string or necklace. With those parameters in place, the system will do all the heavy lifting and works out how many ball bearings you need and where they need to go.

Technically, of course, you could make your own cavities in your model. But combining several cavities means you’d almost certainly have to feel your way through and there would be a lot of trial and error. That’s a waste of time and materials and Disney Research’s complex math means you just don’t have to worry about costly errors.

Now the 3D printer simply can’t insert the ball bearings for you as things stand. So you’ll have to pause the print, place the ball bearings in the semi-formed cavity and then let the 3D printer go back to work. That’s literally all you have to do, though, so it seems like a reasonable amount of work for such an amazing payoff.

Disney is looking at filling the cavity with liquid or sand to give your figurine different physical properties and there may be another benefit for this too. If you can 3D print models with a large cavity that you fill with sand then your print time should drop dramatically and yet your 3D printed model will still have the weight it needs to stand on its own two feet, or hands.

That’s an intriguing prospect in itself as Disney’s method will save time, money and it will open up a world of opportunities when it comes to positioning your model. We’re intrigued to see what effect this has on the world of modeling and if the algorithm is simple enough for the novice to really embrace it and make it a part of the design process.

There’s a clear payoff and it will be user friendly, so we hope this does become a thing and we’re keen to see how this simple concept affects the figurines of the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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Cartoon Reference wrote at 10/12/2016 1:56:51 AM:

Inspired by the "Cloudy with a chance of meat balls" movie?

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