Wouldn’t it be nice to have software that checks CAD product designs in real time to verify that they’ll work in the real world and can be manufactured on color 3D printers? It may sound like the vision of a distant future, but Fraunhofer IGD researchers have already developed a prototype that does all these things. They plan to showcase it at this year’s formnext.
(Darmstadt) Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD have developed CUPstomizer, the world’s first software application for simulating custom made-to-measure solutions that can be printed in very small production runs on a 3D printer. The program verifies the feasibility of the customer’s desired design. “What makes CUPstomizer different is that it evaluates not just the design’s geometry, but its physical properties as well. So in addition to looking at a model’s shape, it also determines whether the printed part will stand up to the specified stresses,” explains Prof. André Stork, Head of the Competence Center for Interactive Engineering Technologies at Fraunhofer IGD.
One prototype of the simulation solution translates this idea into a concrete application: customizing a cup holder. The prototype will be presented at the 2017 formnext conference in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where visitors will have the opportunity to put their own spin on this product. When they pull up the software’s interactive user interface, they begin with a bare-bones cup holder design. As the users modify the geometry, the software analyzes the loads in the 3D model. If the new design idea is structurally unsound, the software pulls up an interactive menu that suggests ways to tweak the parameters that will make the final product more stable.
Multimaterial printing isn’t supported by the current prototype just yet, but while researchers work hard to add capabilities, 3D printer operators can already make use of Cuttlefish, a printer driver developed by Fraunhofer IGD. Cuttlefish allows the simultaneous use of multiple printing materials as well as the exact reproduction of the original item’s geometry, coloring and subtle color gradients. The researchers have even managed to integrate semi-transparency into the printing process. “There are so many applications for this innovative combination of color and translucence – from visualizing industrial prototypes to printing dental implants,” explains Dr. Philipp Urban, Head of the Competence Center for 3D Printing Technology at Fraunhofer IGD.
Fraunhofer IGD researchers will be presenting their prototype at this year’s formnext (November 14 to 17 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany). Their exhibit will be in Hall 3.0, Booth F50.