New device shortens time to design 3-D printed devices

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel have created a system that allows users to quickly customize the design files for 3-D printed items.

The new system automatically turns computer-aided design (CAD) files into visual models. Users can change the models in real time through a virtual program and then send the final design to a 3-D printer in minutes. The system, dubbed Fab Forms, was presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Siggraph conference in August.

“We envision a world where everything you buy can potentially be customized and technologies, such as 3-D printing, promise that that might be cost-effective,” Masha Shugrina, a graduate student in computer science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the system’s designers, stated in a press release. “So the question we set out to answer was, ‘How do you actually allow people to modify digital designs in a way that keeps them functional?’”

Designers working in CAD typically need to change numerical values in input fields and wait for the program to recalculate the shape of the object. Finalized designs are then tested for compatibility with 3-D printers, structural stability and integrity, all using simulation software. Designers can spend several hours taking an idea to the final printing stage, according to the release.

Fab Forms allows novice CAD users to design their own devices in real time. The program begins with a professionally created design and then allows users to choose from a wide range of values for design parameters while performing its own calculations for the resulting geometrics. It also runs designer-created tests on the final design and stores the results.





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