Feb. 19, 2015 | By Simon

Perhaps one of the best parts about the rise of additive manufacturing and 3D modeling technologies has been in watching supporting technologies spawn out of school laboratories and startups and become much-larger products that are integral to the 3D printing industry.  More recently, an innovation that came out of Purdue University three years ago has since been purchased by a start up with the intention of commercializing it into a usable product for 3D modelers.

The technology, called Handy Potter, was developed at Purdue by Karthik Ramani, Purdue University's Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-founder and chief scientist of Zero UI, the startup who recently licensed the technology to commercialize it.  

The technology itself is simple: a depth-sensing camera (such as a Microsoft Kinect) allows users to create geometric shapes capable of being 3D printed with hand movements and gestures - effectively omitting any need for a traditional computer mouse.  The technology can be used by more advanced users in the fields of gaming, architecture, art, engineering and design or by beginners to help create basic geometric shapes without needing to learn complicated CAD programs.

While the User Experience itself seems simple, the technology driving the experience is actually very complicated.  According to Ramani, the system consists of “intelligent algorithms that represent a state-of-the-art synthesis of machine learning and geometric modeling.”

Perhaps most importantly though, is that the technology could change the way everybody interacts with their computers - including nontraditional computers such as smartphones and tablets.  When considering that these computers are usually mobile anyways, enabling a user to create content without the need for extra hardware seems to make sense.  

"We believe there is a desire to create things in all of us and this technology enables anyone to use this amazing technology to design and print things on a 3D printer," said Raja Jasti, who co-founded Zero UI with Ramani and is currently the company’s CEO.

"You don't have to be an architect or an engineer to use this software."

According to Jasti, those without a formal 3D modeling education can easily create digital files including drums, furniture, lamps and others that can be sent directly to a 3D printer - without ever touching their mouse or keyboard.  

In 2012, Ramani and the research team he worked with on the Handy Potter won the all-conference best paper award at the ASME 2012 International Design engineering Technology Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference.

"The technology could change the way people interact with the computer. This tool allows people to express their ideas rapidly and quickly using hand motions alone,” added Ramani.

“We want to make it a natural action for people to gesture to a computer screen and create things with their hands."



Posted in 3D Design


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