Jan 21, 2017 | By Julia

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana have partnered with the National Science Foundation to launch a new platform that turns your smartphone into a user-friendly design system. “Makerpad” is specifically geared toward design beginners, enabling even the most amateur of us to create 3D scans, 3D models, 3D prints, and laser cuts without any technical know-how.

"Currently, product design and manufacturing are the purview of enterprises and professionals such as engineers and artists," said Karthik Ramani, project leader and Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue U. "Everyone has ideas, but only a select few can bring them to reality. This is a tremendous waste of untapped human creative resources and economic potential to the society and world economy."

It’s a problem that often gets overlooked in all the buzz about maker culture. With the multitude of accessible and freely available tech these days, theoretically anyone can become a maker. But in reality, 3D printing still requires some crucial skills, tools, and abilities that many creative users simply don’t possess.

Ramani’s answer is the online platform Makerpad, which recently received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and soon-to-be announced funding from Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity. The user-friendly platform uses depth-sensing cameras in your smartphone to scan objects, which can then be digitized, modified, and incorporated to create self-designed 3D prints or laser cuts. Standard smartphone gestures such as swiping, pinching, and moving act as controls in the design process, opening up a world of possibilities for anyone with smartphone capabilities.

project leader Karthik Ramani

"This will eventually become a service for anyone to use," said Ramani. "Say I want a lampshade, or I want a necklace, or I want some accessory for my car or bike. You will be able to create these with your phone and emerging augmented and virtual reality tools that enable anybody to become a maker."

Cloud-powered algorithms form the backbone of the project, which were designed by Ramani’s team at Purdue University’s C-Lab. But “while the algorithms under development require a team of highly skilled engineers and computer scientists, they are designed to be used by people who have no technical background,” Ramani said.

Other partners in the project include the company ZeroUI Inc., the Imagination Station museum in Lafayette, Indiana, and Purdue’s Gifted Education Resource Institute.

Patents for Makerpad are currently pending through the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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