A collection of remixed devices made with Grafter.

A longstanding tradition among 3D printing enthusiasts is remixing each other’s models to make something new or better. Crowdsourcing isn’t an especially new way to develop an idea, but rarely is it quite as accepted and embraced as it is from the 3D model design community. Not only do most creators who upload 3D models to share know that remixing is a possibility, they often welcome and expect it. Not only is remixing a great way to refine and perfect many more complicated 3D designs, but it is also a good way for people to learn more about 3D model design so they can start designing their own objects.

However, as common and accepted as remixing is, it usually still requires some basic level of skill or design knowledge. Because many parts were not designed to work together, if someone borrows a set of gears from one model and uses them for a different device, it will require a lot of tweaking and adjusting to get everything to work as intended. There are simply not a lot of 3D model design and remixing tools specifically made for new or beginning users.

Examples of how long it takes Grafter to import 3D mechanisms.

A new software system called Grafter, created by a group of researchers from the Hasso-Plattner Institute in Germany, is designed to change that with what the group is calling mechanism-based remixing. The Grafter software allows users to pull entire working mechanisms from 3D printable machines and combine them with other elements from other models to seamlessly create entirely new and fully functional 3D printable devices. Not only does it save designers time and effort tweaking and testing complex mechanisms, but it allows people new to 3D design the opportunity to create their own, brand new 3D printable devices.

Grafter works by first importing the working, virtual 3D models of working 3D printable devices. It takes the software about 23 minutes on average to do this, and once done it will never need to be done again. Once the entire object is scanned the software identifies all relevant mechanisms inside the device and allows them to be extracted and combined with other mechanisms. Grafter will then combine both mechanisms automatically. Once the software is finished the model will then function and be fully 3D printable.

Essentially the Grafter software is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) design tool for complex mechanisms that allows users to import the components that they want to reuse and does the hard work of adjusting them to make them work with each other. For instance, by combining components from 3 different models the team was able to make a hand-cranked test tube centrifuge. First the team used parts from a hand-cranked air raid siren chosen for its large gear ratio, a hand-cranked record player chosen to alter the spinning under a 90 degree angle and a test-tube holder to create the final model.

You can see more about how the Grafter software works in this video:

The study is set to be presented at this year’s interactive design conference CHI 2018 in Montreal, Canada on March 1st. As part of their project the team asked a select group of new users to remix a set of machines from a collection of pre-imported mechanisms using their Grafter software. Almost all of the users successfully used Grafter to create new and fully functional devices that were all successfully 3D printable. Currently they have no plans to make Grafter commercially available, but they are considering releasing it online once their project has been presented.

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[Source/Images: Hasso-Plattner Institute]


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