Hyperform – 3D Printing

With 3D printers rapidly getting smaller and cheaper, it’s not difficult to imagine desktop models someday being as commonplace as your regular ink-and-paper variety. But while small machines are great for producing toys and trinkets (custom Yoda figurine, anyone?), their small size limits their ability to make anything much bigger.

[via The Creators Project]

-A Bostonbased team are taking on this problem with a new 3D printing concept they call Hyperform. The basic idea is to use folding strategies to compress large-scale objects into desktop-friendly volumes. A collaboration between Marcelo Coelho, Skylar TibbitsNatan Linder, and Yoav Reches, the project won this year’s Ars Electronica “next idea” grant, which funded the design and testing of the Hyperform technique.

I spoke to Marcelo Coelho and Skylar Tibbits just after their return from the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Austria, where they’ve been working on the project for the past couple of weeks. They explained the basic idea behind Hyperform. “I guess the problem is, if you have a huge object, how do you get it into the machine and then how do you get it back out?” says Tibbits.
Rather than break an object larger than the print bed down into smaller parts, their folding strategy allows them to print it as one continuous piece, but with its geometry packed up small enough to fit inside the machine. Once the object is printed, it’s simply folded out into its full, large-scale form.
Printing it in one piece makes this easy. “That’s kind of key,” says Coelho. “The difference between what we try to do and buying IKEA furniture is that you don’t need instructions – the object tells you how it should be unfolded and reassembled.” The object is printed in a chain-like design, where each link of the chain consists of a universal joint with a custom notch that rotates to a specific angle. It’s this detail that indicates how the object should be put together.
Coelho and Tibbits talk through how designing and printing with Hyperform works: First, they transform the shape of their oversized 3D object into a single path. “Basically at that point there’s this idea of displacing density, so getting density from the inside of the object and moving it to the outside, to the surface,” explains Coelho. “After we do that we end up with a line. We break that line into segments that have angles between them, and we use those angles to design the custom chain … ”
The object’s chain design is then digitally folded into a cube that will fit in the print bed – think origami, but starting with a one-dimensional line rather than a two-dimensional surface. A really compressed design is achieved using the Hilbert curve (for those who didn’t pay attention in math class, that’s a continuous, space-filling curve that essentially increases density while keeping a fixed volume). The compacted object is then printed in resin using a Form 1 printer from Formlabs (a supporter of the project), and physically folded out into its original shape.
The developers have already put Hyperform to the test by making a chandelier that is eight times the volume of the printer. For them, it was something of a test case to show that desktop 3D printers can be used to make more than just plastic curios. But don’t go throwing away the IKEA catalogue just yet, as the technique does have limitations. “One of them is structural,” says Coelho. “In the beginning we were like, hey, let’s make a chair – but then it turns out it would be pretty hard to sit on that chair.” This is because displacing density can affect structural integrity – “So there’s a lot of material development needs to happen and structural engineering development needs to happen as well.”
To really push the limits of the technology, the team also designed and printed a chain a whopping 50 – 70 feet in length, still using the Form 1 with its 125 x 125 x165 mm build size. They’re hoping to top that soon with a chain over 100 feet long.
Ultimately, the duo hope their efforts might inspire others to tackle the problem of making big things with small machines. They point to the field of architecture – do we really want to create 3D printers large enough to build whole houses?
“There’s this paradox that you don’t want to build one skyscraper to have to build another skyscraper,” says Tibbits. “There’s a certain point where 3D printing with huge machines doesn’t make sense any more.”


Hyperform was supported by Ars Electronica and [The Next Idea] Voestalpine Art and Technology Grant 

Additional Support From:

Natan Linder, Yoav Reches, Maxim Lobovsky, Will Walker, Craig Broady, Alan Argondizza, Graham Francis, Amir Soltanian, Lina Karain, Marianna Gonzalez, Matthew Gardiner, Erwin Reitboeck and Futurelab.

By Victoria Turk

[via The Creators Project]

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