Jun 28, 2017 | By Julia

As 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies continue to boom, it seems like almost anyone can become a sophisticated maker at the click of a button. But beyond all the marketing lingo, there are still several barriers with regards to skills and knowledge sets that keep the masses from fully diving into the world of additive manufacturing. Chief among them is 3D modeling, an often time-consuming process that hinges on complex software. Difficult graphical user interfaces can be exceedingly tricky to navigate, and frequently create a barrier between the user and computer.

This pervasive issue is precisely what makes Simon Van Pottelbergh’s work so timely. The Belgian maker and product design student at Brussels' LUCA School of the Arts recently completed his newest project, TAC.TILES, an interface that challenges these issues head on.

Comprised of 15 independent modules, TAC.TILES brings the computer interface back to a physical manifestation while not losing any of its efficiency. Designers can still create 3D models in a mere matter of minutes, but without sacrificing any of the user’s tactility or intuition. These modules are able to control the basic shape, geometry, and parameters of the 3D module by way of physical buttons. Users can pull, push, twist, and bend to achieve desired actions, and ultimately control the shape of the 3D model.

Van Pottelbergh’s TAC.TILES is truly a modular design. Users get to pick and choose which module or combination of modules to deploy for a particular project, assembling only the modules that are required ensures a clean interface. Additionally, TAC.TILES enables users to choose an ideal arrangement for all the different modules, meaning that the control panel can be based purely on personal preference. A magnetic USB port attached to each module allows different modules to snap together and come apart again. Different arrangements between different modules, and between the modules and the computer, are thus both digital and physical.

While a fully functional design, it should be acknowledged that TAC.TILES is still in its infancy as an actual marketable product. As a physical interface that enables users to design and experiment with 3D models quickly and intuitively, the main purpose of TAC.TILES is form finding. That means generating various shapes in a short period of time, usually reserved for an early stage in the design process.

In this sense, Van Pottelbergh’s unique interface is best used for creating abstract figures, and still has a ways to go before it can be successfully used for designing functional models or products. Still, as a clever, intuitive, and well-executed design that disrupts how we conceive of interfaces, TAC.TILES achieves what it sets out to do, and with any luck could be the start of something much larger.



Posted in 3D Technology



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