Sep 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Masters students at London’s Bartlett School of Architecture have used 3D scanning and 3D printing to create weird soft robotic silicone masks that respond to facial expressions with bubbling colorful fluids.

A lot of the time, we can tell how other people are feeling by looking at their facial expressions. Frown lines can indicate worry or anxiety, a smile is a surefire indicator of happiness, while a gaping mouth can often indicate confusion.

But what if we saw emotions in a completely different way, entirely removed from the human facial features that now appear so natural to us?

For a group of masters students at University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture, that question is the inspiration behind a weird and wonderful new project that involves 3D scanning, 3D printing, and some frankly bizarre face masks.

Designed by Sirou Peng, Adi Meyer, and Silvia Rueda, these 3D printed silicone masks are filled with a colorful liquid. When the wearer pulls a facial expression, a Myoware muscle sensor (a kind of all-in-one electromyography sensor) reads this expression and instructs the mask to inject or suck liquid through special printed capillaries.

The result is a visible (if somewhat coded) representation of human emotion, in a way we have never seen before.

It’s hard to say exactly why you’d need a mask like this, but the robotic facial prosthesis is certain to entertain and bemuse your friends.

Of course, something this complex isn’t especially easy to put together, but the students behind the mask have put together a fairly surface-level tutorial showing you how to make your own. (The tutorial isn’t super-detailed, but the students say they are planning to update their documentation with further details.)

The first stage in the mask-making process is getting a clear model of the wearer’s face, to ensure the mask fits perfectly. The masters students recommend using Agisoft software to carry out a photogrammetry 3D scanning process, taking multiple photos of the subject and using the software to piece them together into a 3D model.

With the resulting mesh file, you can then tidy up the 3D face using Pixologic’s ZBrush digital sculpting tool, before exporting it to Rhino to design the actual mask. You can let your imagine run wild at this stage.

Next comes the 3D printing part, during which molds of the final silicone masks can be printed out. The students don’t specify a suitable material, but PLA or ABS will work. When the printed mold is finished, you can start the fun part: pouring the silicone mix into the mold. The Bartlett students recommend Smooth-On’s Dragon Skin silicone.

Perhaps the most complex part involves turning this silicone mask into something robotic. And the next stage involves programming an Arduino Uno board to read the muscle sensors and actuate the water pumps or air pumps that move the liquid around the mask, giving the mask a creepy lifelike quality.

Finally, the students recommend that you glue(!) the mask to your face with a skin-safe silicone adhesive. This is a little gross, but I suppose it makes the alien face look a little more organic than elastic straps would.

So there you have it: a crazy silicone mask, made using 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques, that’s sure to scare your neighbors.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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