Feb 9, 2018 | By Benedict

Researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany have created Grafter, a software system for “remixing” 3D printed machines. The tool allows users to combine mechanisms from multiple 3D printing projects while maintaining the functionality of each mechanism.

The 3D printing community is a place of sharing. Through 3D model platforms like Thingiverse and Pinshape, creators are able to share their CAD creations, which can then be downloaded, modified, and 3D printed by other users. It’s a great system, and one that has produced some spectacular collaborative 3D prints.

But the element of modification, often called “remixing,” doesn’t come without it’s problems—especially for 3D printed models that have a functional or mechanical aspect. If makers want to chop and change mechanical systems from one 3D printable model to another, they have to extract certain parts made by one designer and use them with parts made by another designer.

Sometimes this works well, but often makers are left frustrated by compatibility issues: their 3D printed Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t always come together in the way they would like it to.

This problem of remixing—particularly the process of combing disparate mechanisms—has piqued the interest of a group of researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute. Those researchers (Thijs Roumen, Willi Mueller, and Patrick Baudisch) saw that makers were struggling to piece together parts from multiple models, and consequently created a software system called Grafter that simplifies the process of remixing 3D printed machines.

Grafter ultimately rethinks the approach to remixing 3D printed systems. Instead of taking individual parts from multiple models, the software identifies complete mechanisms (consisting of multiple parts), and treats those mechanisms as unified entities. So instead of letting a user transfer, for example, a single cog from Model A to Model B, it semi-automatically identifies an entire mechanism—a gear or pulley system, for example—and guides the user as they transfer that entire system to a new model.

In this way, Grafter lets users easily combine multiple 3D printed machines into one complex system, without sacrificing the functionality of the individual mechanisms. This speeds up the process of mechanical remixing while ensuring compatibility between multiple mechanical systems. No more barely functional Frankenstein machines, in other words.

In a study that will be presented at the forthcoming CHI 2018 conference in Montreal, Canada, the researchers asked a group of non-specialists to remix a set of machines using Grafter, creating a new machine with mechanisms from each of the original models. Although some participants struggled with the software, many successfully used it to create a 3D printable machine made up of multiple extracted mechanisms.

It sounds exciting, but you might have to wait a while before trying it yourself. Roumen, Mueller, and Baudisch developed the software as a research prototype implemented as a Rhino plugin, but Roumen told us they have no immediate plans to commercialize Grafter. That being said, the tool might be made available after the researchers present their findings at CHI.

Releasing the software itself, however, was never really the point of the study. Rather, as Roumen explained to us, Grafter was an attempt to showcase a new framework for the remixing of 3D printed parts: a framework that focuses on mechanisms rather than individual parts. In this sense, the study could inspire future 3D modelers and software developers to change the way they think about remixing.

See some of Grafter’s mixed-up mechanisms in the video below, and grab the 3D printing files for those mechanisms here.



Posted in 3D Software



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willi wrote at 2/10/2018 7:53:03 PM:

Hopefully this is released!

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