Carnegie Melon University is no stranger to 3D printing innovations. Just last month, we covered their flexible textile printing technology. This time around their researchers have come up with an algorithm for creating telescopic shapes that can potentially be 3D printed into complex, telescopic devices or electronics and robotics. The algorithm moves designers closer towards functional printing with an emphasis on foldable and space saving designs. The researchers have also demonstrated possible models for future robotics within their designs.
Telescopic shapes are ones which can consist of subsections that fold into each other to allow growth or shrinkage. Think of an umbrella’s extendable shaft or a tripod stand that can extend its legs or pack neatly into a smaller size. This algorithm can suggest a telescopic design based on curves that the researchers insert into the system.
It’s important to note that system is still in the early stages and they’ve only tested certain 3D printed shapes on it. As of yet, they have not printed any actual robotics as far as we know. However, they have demonstrated its uses in building collapsible tent frames for easy folding. Logic dictates that this can be applied further into electronics.
The video below contains some good examples of how many shapes the algorithm can generate:
For right now, the algorithm and the program are quite an achievement on their own. The software can easily generate complex shapes from simple inputs. It then turns what appear to be simple lines into foldable structures. The researchers claim that even novices can use the system to easily generate collapsible structures. Additionally, the program automatically adjusts for minimum space wastage and for avoiding collision of parts as it extends.
Applications of Telescopic 3D Prints
Telescopic 3D prints represent a far more functional side to printing. Extendable parts are everywhere: umbrellas, windscreen wipers, camera tripods etc. A program for creating them can aid manufacturers immensely. As the demonstration video shows, it can also help easily design complex shapes and simulate their expansions. It could reduce modelling time as well.
As far as the applications in electronics go, it could mean better robotic legs or body designs. Robots made with very specific goals in mind. Retractable parts to fit into small spaces or to easily package. Similarly, they’ve demonstrated that the program can produce models shaped like the animals. It can even mimic near-organic movement and simulate it.