Disney Research has just made the world of 3d printing more accessible. They released an exciting paper describing a new 3d printing mechanism called AutoConnect. AutoConnect simplifies the 3d printing of connectors that are both functional and aesthetically pleasant. Applications for the method range from printing a mobile phone holder for your wall to decorative bling for shoes.
AutoConnect separates physical objects into two different categories: Standard and Free-Form. Each category is designed to address the specific needs of each object type. The first category is made up of objects with simple shapes. This covers common items like tables, chairs, and pipes. The viable connectors are pulled from a database of mechanical holders. Potential holders are chosen based on the necessary grip strength and the material being used. The second category is made up of free form objects with no standard shapes. Free form connectors are created using a custom shell-like holder. In both cases, a list of potential options to choose from is supplied to the user.
The two connectors are fused together into one for the final result. The final product can be for 2 standard objects, 1 standard object and 1 free form object, or 2 free form objects. The end result is one 3d printed connector that connects two disparate objects smoothly.
The physical objects that the connector is being generated for need to have 3d models entered in the system. Some models can be downloaded from the Internet, and this list will grow over time. Alternatively, models can be created using scanning systems such as the Kinect Fusion or Autodesk 123d Catch.
The results have wide ranging applications. A simple example is a mug holder for a table edge. AutoConnect generates a vise connector for the table and fuses it with a shallow pocket-like holder for the mug. A more complex example is a game console controller holder for an arm chair. A square connector fits around the chair arm. A smooth cradle is on top of the square to hold the controller complete with smooth indents for control sticks.
AutoConnect promises to create a powerful mechanism for the 3d printing of connectors. It makes the potential of 3d connector printing more accessible. It automates many of the more complicated processes and boils them down to an easy set of user selections.
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