Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interactive Fabrication - Modeling and 3D Printing From an iPad

Some of you may be familiar with the Association of Professional Model Makers (APMM). This organization is made up of industry professionals worldwide who specialize in making models of all types – architectural, manufacturing, medical, entertainment, etc. Recently, an APMM member came upon this cool technology which uses an iPad as an interface for sculptural modeling. The software is called Beautiful Modeler.

Beautiful Modeler is a software tool for gestural sculpting using a multi-touch controller such as an iPad. Each finger is used to control a single touch point in the model, with multiple layers working to build up 3D volume. Take a look at this video:

The interactive fabrication tool has STL file export so that these gestural sculpting designs (or their negatives) can be printed.

Will this input device and associated software transform the way people design and fabricate? Maybe. Let’s take a look back in recent history. An argument can be made that the design tool itself can impact the creativity of the designer and the final look-and-feel of the design. For example, the use of Bentley’s GenerativeComponents software has impacted the skylines of Dubai, Almaty, and other cities. Take a look at the Gallery images. These are not the traditional geometries created with 2D or simple 3D design tools. Another example is the use of a haptic device with force-feedback for freeform design. By using a haptic device tied to voxel-based modeling software, designers can literally feel like they are carving clay. See the variety of applications on SensAble Technologies’ Website which would be difficult-to-impossible to model with traditional CAD tools -

What makes Beautiful Modeler intriguing is that the software source code is in the public domain. Technology adoption tends to accelerate when the cost is low. The use of an iPad is also very clever – why not leverage the Apple marketing machine?

I think that this technology might go somewhere. What do you think?