Mar 11, 2018 | By Tess

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a technology that makes it possible to turn digital 3D models into knitted objects. The technology, which consists of a software program and required a computer-controlled knitting machine, could be used to create all types of customized 3D printed stuffed toys.

The team of researchers behind this innovative and fun technology is from Carnegie Mellon’s Textiles Lab and includes Vidya Narayanan, Lea Albaugh, Jessica Hodgins, Stelian Coros, and Jim McCann. The team recently released a study called “Automatic Machine Knitting 3D Meshes.”

So how exactly does this automated 3D knitting technique work?

Well, according to the study, the software developed by the team is built to convert 3D models—such as a 3D printable toy from Thingiverse—into a knitting pattern. All the user has to do is indicate where the knitting should begin on the model and where it should end.

The software is also reportedly capable of distinguishing any problems that the knitting machine might have with the design based on the models mesh. This feature will allow users to avoid failed knits or potential jams with the knitting machine.

Once the automatically generated knitting patterns are ready, they are then sent to a computer-controlled knitting machine which creates a knit “skin” of the object. Users are then free to stuff the knitted object to give it its 3D form.

As the researchers have demonstrated, the technology can be used to create some fairly standard-looking plush toys, like teddy bears and bunnies, but it can also be used to make complex, even abstract shapes.

Through its research, the CMU team hopes that industrial knitting machines will become more versatile and be fit for more applications.

“Knitting machines are as robust and repeatable as 3D printers, but—until now—they have not enjoyed the same popularity,” reads the study’s conclusion. “We believe this deficiency stems from the lack of easy-to-use software and consumer-level hardware…This paper provides an important addition to the software landscape. By automatically producing machine knitting instructions from 3D models, our system makes these machines as easy to control as 3D printers.”

(Images: "Automatic Machine Knitting 3D Meshes" CMU study)

The team isn’t the only group exploring three-dimensional knitting, however. Readers might remember the Kniterate 3D printer for clothes which smashed its funding goal on Kickstarter last spring. This machine is capable of 3D knitting clothing patterns based off of 3D models.



Posted in 3D Software



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