May 10, 2016 | By Andre

There are certain moments in life that stick with you more than others. Sometimes for a good reason, and then sometimes for who knows why. In 2012, while at Makerfaire NYC, I was in attendance at a presentation given by open-source 3D printer guru Josef Prusa when he suggested major limitations in 3D printing are not in hardware, but in software instead. Since then, I’ve certainly noticed getting more from my own collection of 3D printers than I originally did. This is thanks in large part to firmware and software tweaks that have been taking place behind the scenes along the way.

It seems Autodesk, a world leader in CAD software tools and a mamor proponent of 3D printing, feels the same after another software related announcement called ChronoFab.

Chronofab is a tool designed specifically for capturing the look-and-feel of movement in an inanimate 3D object file by combining dynamic physics algorithms and whatever 3D model it is that you’re hoping to infuse the illusion of motion into. Inspired by 2D comic book art (where smoke clouds and motion trails have been adding life to comic panels for decades) ChronoFab provides an easy system to modify static 3D model files with code based motion modifications.

This novel approach of treating 3D modeling as a dynamic art-form provides powerful design tools to any creator more interested in impressive results over learning the complex math often associated with achieving phyics based patterns. An Autodesk promotional piece suggests that “the core idea can be generalized by the development of 3D sculpting tools that have any awareness of back-end animation data of how a model moves or deforms over time.” And if the freely available research paper is any indication, they certainly did their due diligence ahead of developing the product.

Using a term called dynamic sculpting, the Autodesk Research paper details how their software interprets desirable motion patterns around a static 3D model file. What this means is you can import your Superman 3D model character, draw a few direction specific lines and voila, your Superman now has the illusion of movement.

The software categorizes the possible motion patterns into separate toolsets. Multiple Stroboscop Stamps depict complex motion within a very short period of time. The sweep technique generates motion geometry by sampling numerous instances of a 2D curve (such as a long exposure photographic blur). Motion lines are created after sampling numerous trajectory based positions of a “moving” object over time. And then Particle systems, which are based on fluid effects to create the illusion of trails (smoke from a rocket for example).

This marriage between a static 3D model file and dynamic back-end coding will also help in simulation and procedural processes during early-stage, form finding periods of animation projects. Aspects of generative design (the representation of complex data with small amounts of code) is also advanced with the Chronofab software. Also, standard Maya viewport, timeline, selection and navigation tools are built in to the user-interface of ChronoFab so the learning curve shouldn’t be too steep. This increased efficiency in these very specific elements of design are said to reduce 3D modeling workflow completion time by 79%.

And while this software is still in its research phase, promotion has already begun. The research team recently gave a talk on the subject at the Conference for Human-Computer Interaction in San Jose, California. Lastly, since team tested their code using a variety of 3D printers (from Stratasys Connex 260, Makerbots and a ZPrinter 650), cross-compatibility between the virtual and physical space should be a painless one.

I often close an article out by suggesting the topic covered won’t blow the roof off the 3D printing landscape in one shot, but instead that a further step in the right direction is being addressed. I reiterate these feelings with the ChronoFab toolset by Autodesk. While adding motion blur to inanimate objects might not seem like a huge deal, the fact is they’ve succeeded in simplifying the 3D design process yet again. If 3D printing is to be adopted by the mainstream, this sort of thing needs to happen on a daily basis and Autodesk seems to be on the right track in doing so.



Posted in 3D Software



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