Feb 6, 2018 | By Benedict

Anthony Chen, a researcher from Carnegie Mellon University, has created an interactive sketch tool called “Forté” that lets users create generative designs for 3D printing. The tool has been used to make 3D printed furniture, shoes, robot legs, and other items.

A few years ago, we wrote a story about Encore, a tool for augmenting everyday objects with 3D printed parts. It allowed users to 3D print augmentations onto non-printed items via three methods: print-over, print-to-affix, and print-through, turning 3D printing into a tool for modification rather than fabrication.

Encore’s principal designer, researcher Anthony Chen, has now returned with a new application—and once again he’s opted for a catchy French name. This time the tool is named “Forté,” and it’s also a tool that helps 3D printer users create advanced designs.

Forté is a user-driven generative design tool that lets users make generative designs for 3D printing and other applications. It can be used to design biologically inspired structures—the kind you see in lots of modern 3D printed furniture—and is purportedly very easy to use.

It all starts with a sketch: to get their ideas going, users can first draw a simple shape, either freehand or traced over an image like a photo or even a painting. Then, with minimal effort on the user’s behalf, those sketches can be turned into fantastically complex, real-life structures.

The magic behind the tool is topology optimization, the process of automatically generating a structure based on certain user-defined constraints and parameters. Topology optimization can, for example, independently produce a design that will provide the most strength while using the least material, by making tiny changes to a multitude of design options and then running them through simulations.

Forté, however, is a bit different to other topology optimization tools, because it offers three different optimization methods: adding extra structures that can reinforce the user’s sketch; creating a variation of the user’s sketch; or expanding the user’s sketch and then optimizing the internal material layout.

Within these three methods, users can control how much “creative freedom” Forté is allowed—how much the tool can veer from the initial sketch—and can also make selective edits to a generated design, refining certain areas that aren’t to their liking. The user can also select certain areas of the design on which Forté should try different approaches, all the while keeping tracking of the strength of a generated design by looking at its structural “heatmap.”

“Instead of sitting there and waiting for the optimization to spit out unpredictable results, Forté lets you interactively control how much the generated structures can deviate from your original sketch,” Chen says.

Chen and a group of testers have already used the generative design tool to create a 3D printed reading chair inspired by a painting, a pair of wearable 3D printed high heel shoes, a 3D printed bike seat, 3D printed robot legs, a 3D printed jumping platform for a chinchilla, and useable 3D printed furniture.

Try out Forté for yourself here.



Posted in 3D Software



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