Make your own action figures with a 3-D printer

An articulated model based on a 3-D scan of a human hand. Below,the steps in creating a model: The computer divides the 3-D image into segments, decides where to pace joints and adds the joints to the design, which a 3-D printer fabricates in plastic.

An articulated model based on a 3-D scan of a human hand. Above,the steps in creating a model: The computer divides the 3-D image into segments, decides where to pace joints and adds the joints to the design, which a 3-D printer fabricates in plastic.
An articulated model based on a 3-D scan of a human hand. Above,the steps in creating a model: The computer divides the 3-D image into segments, decides where to pace joints and adds the joints to the design, which a 3-D printer fabricates in plastic.

 Computer graphics researchers at Cornell and Harvard have created software that will translate a graphic image of a character from a movie or video game, or even something you've created yourself, into a posable plastic model manufactured by a 3-D printer. Eventually this capability might be built into games and other software, the researchers said.

The project by Moritz Bächer and Hanspeter Pfister of Harvard, Bernd Bickel of the Technische Universität Berlin, and Doug James, Cornell associate professor of computer science, was described at the SIGGRAPH conference Aug. 7 in Los Angeles and in the July 2012 issue of the Association for Computing Machinery journal Transactions on Graphics. The researchers displayed models they had made of characters created in the video game "Spore," which allows the player to evolve an alien creature, as well as an articulated model of a human hand.

A 3-D printer builds a solid object by scanning across a table and depositing tiny droplets of plastic or another material, then moving upward in tiny steps to add additional layers. Professional 3-D printers, used in industry for prototyping machinery, sell for $50,000 and up. The researchers suggest that character printing might be offered as an online service or perhaps as a service by hobby stores.

In a game or movie all the computer knows about a character is the overall shape. "All previous work on printing characters has just made solid shapes. Ours makes an articulated model," said James, who is a specialist on the animation of what the industry calls "skinned characters."

An alien created in the video game Spore and fabricated by a 3-D printer.An alien created in the video game Spore and fabricated by a 3-D printer.The computer represents the skin as a lot of tiny triangles linked together. By examining the angles between the triangles it can find the bends. In effect it imagines a skeleton and figures out where joints should go. The user enters the process here, specifying which kind of joint to use. Elbows and knees get hinges. Torsos, tails and perhaps tentacles get ball and socket joints with what engineers call "three degrees of freedom."

The computer has a built-in description for each type of joint but must find the right size. The joint must be strong enough to support a particular part of the body, but "It might make the joint really huge so it sticks out through the skin, or collides with other joints, or it might be too small to print, so our algorithm has an optimization step to find the best balance," James explained. Finally, small bumps are added to the joint parts to create friction so that the figure will hold a pose.

To print a joint with moving parts, the 3-D printer deposits two different materials: a plastic that forms solid parts of the figure, and a temporary material that fills in what will eventually be empty spaces. This holds the figure together during printing, but the filler essentially turns to dust when the finished figure is first moved.

The software still needs refinements to handle some types of joints, the researchers said, and adding a flexible skin to cover the joints is a possible improvement. Some day, James suggested, it might be possible to build in motors and other actuators to create robotic figures that could "walk out of the printer when they're ready."

The work has been partially supported by the National Science Foundation. James received support from a Guggenheim fellowship and from Pixar. Test figures were printed at Disney Research Boston.

Comments

Action figures?
Seems like a waste to me.
I'd rather this would be utilized by people to create their own arts for their homes, along with tools, and various other things.

agree, btw i heart bilionaire invested in 3d printing

Heh...
3d printing is a technology that is just over 30 years old.
:D

So basically... it's already quite dated from a technological point of view and could have been implemented globally in the first 5 years.
Of course... Capitalism doesn't work like that.

true, but there are nuances...

3D printing is part of a larger concept called rapid prototyping. There are actually a lot of different techniques in this family of manufacturing and industry has been using some of them for a long time.

The difference is that now hobbyists have come into the deal and started making these things affordable.

However 30 years ago, a project like RepRap could have never got off the ground for there was no internet to direct the development of it. 

Still, the old dollar does it's best to supress these projects, but you can't stop a technology who's time has come.

however, money DID slow things down considerably.
point is that we could have used that technology for rapid production within the first 5 years... and probably adapt it for everyone in the following 5 years or less.

You'd be surprised just how quickly things can be implemented from the moment of their development (we had the ability to mass produce a technology within 6 to 12 months after its initial development in abundance).

But as I said... the monetary system doesn't do that.
It stalls, waits and prolongs everything for as much as possible.
That's why most of the technology you see today is decades old (computers as well), and in some cases... it close to a century or more.

Waste? Some would say the sculptures of action figures and statues (mini-busts, etc) ARE art.

Stop being so closed minded.

Being closed-minded has nothing to do with it.
I would personally want a printer that would be able to produce practical/usable things (think technology/tools) as much as it could produce Art too.

I work in 3d design (and consider myself an artist in general as I also work in other art related fields), so yes, from an artistic point of view, it would be nice to have a printer capable of printing my own art... however, I don't want it to be limited to that alone.

I would prefer a printer capable of recycling other forms of matter so that if I design a component in 3dsMax for example (or another program), I simply set out the type of material I want it to be, and print away.
After all, if you want to print a replacement CPU for an old computer to update it or keep it running, your printer needs to be able to print not just plastic but other materials as well.

And... I was only using a CPU as an example.

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