Jun 8, 2015 | By Alec

When looking for modeling software perfect for your needs and skills there is plenty to choose from. In fact, there are so many options out there –for beginning designers up to the very professional and from free to very expensive – it can be a bit difficult to settle on one. But the most unusual among them has only just been released: Tactum. Developed through the collaborative effort of Madlab and Autodesk, this unusual modeling tool lets you design 3D printed wearable accessories directly on your body where you want them.

As you can see in the clip below, this strange option looks very fun and easy to play with. At its heart are depth-sensing and projection mapping tools that can be used to detect and display touch gestures on your skin. ‘A person can simply touch, poke, rub, or pinch the geometry projected onto their arm to customize ready-to-print, ready-to-wear forms,’ its developers from Madlabb explain. Madlab.CC is, as you probably know, a designers’ collective specializing in unusual solutions in fields as diverse as architecture to computer science and robotics, but this latest tool must surely beo ne of the strangest things they have created so far.

As they explain on their website, the goal of Tactum is to make design for 3D printable accessories and pieces of jewelry as interactive and intuitive as possible. ‘Tactum extracts features from the user's body to generate the interactive digital geometry that is projected onto the skin. This embeds a level of ergonomic intelligence into the form: wearable designs are inherently sized to fit the designer,’ they write. It is therefore also inherently personal, as whatever you do will with Tactum will always be 3D printable and wearable by you yourself. It makes 3D printed creations as unique as possible, and could be a perfect option for bracelets, wristwatch bands and so on.

Of course, this mean that it isn’t very easy to use as the best results require a pre-scanning of the body part in question. While that isn’t an absolutely necessity, ‘it ensures an exact fit once the printed form is placed back on the body. Between the 3D scan, the intelligent geometry, and intuitive interactions, Tactum is able to coordinate imprecise skin-based gestures to create very precise designs around very precise forms,’ its designers explain. And as the minimum tolerance is around 20 mm, it means the Tactum isn’t adequately detailed for the design of very precise 3D printed pieces of jewelry.

Nonetheless, the test results from Madlab and Autodesk speak volumes about what is possible. In the images above, you can see the creation of a new band for a wristwatch that looks fantastic. ‘However, there are a number of hard constraints that need to be extremely precise in order for the watch face to fit, and the new band to function. For example, the clips to hold the watch face and the clasp to close the band onto the arm have exact measurements and tolerances required for both fit and fabrication,’ its designers explain.

As you might have guessed, this interesting design tool builds on the achievement of a series of depth and motion sensor devices, like the Microsoft Kinect, to map geometric features. 'The first prototype used an above-mounted Microsoft Kinect to detect and track skin gestures. It used a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 as an auxiliary display for showing digital geometry to the designer,’ the creations reveal. The second prototype relied on an above-mounted Leap Motion Controller. ‘While this sensor provided more robust hand and arm tracking, the gesture detection was more robust with the Kinect. The second prototype also switched from an auxiliary to mapping and projecting geometry directly onto the body.’ The full design process is detailed in a recent research paper, which can be found here.

The concept itself is also very beneficial to 3D printing technology, as whatever design you settle on is immediately exported as a data file to whatever 3D printed you have. Among the examples given by Madlab are prints in PLA with a typical desktop machine, a nylon and rubber print made with an SLS 3D printer and even resin prints relying on Stereolithography technology. Everything, in short, you could wish for. While the concept currently only exists as a prototype, the Tactum could be marketed as a very useful design tool in the near future.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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