Who needs 3D printing? 2D is the new 3D!
Yesterday, I was sitting with a room full of mechanical engineers and computer scientists mulling over the challenges of making design tools which can make use of the full capabilities of 3D printing. B-rep just doesn’t cut it for cellular structures (lattices, foams), and don’t even get me started about STL files. F-rep or voxels seem to be more promising, but no major CAD exists for these - yet.
Anyway, one of the speakers was presenting some miscellaneous ideas as food for thought, and brought up a fascinating synthesis of mathematics, art, and computer science which snapped me out of my post-lunch drowsiness - origami design software!
Dr. Robert Lang, a physicist and engineer turned full-time origami artist and consultant, has spent more than 40 years studying origami. Over the last two decades, he has insidiously subverted the gentle and patient Japanese art form with a cold and aggressive Western mentality - writing software which can allow anyone to design their own origami “base”. A base is the formless wad of paper that the frustrated novice origami student masters very quickly. For the more capable, it is the “torso and limbs” of the origami shape being made, minus the detail features. Dr. Lang’s work in the mathematics of origami (a branch of “graph theory”) allows his software (dubbed “TreeMaker” in reference to the graph theory “tree” of folds that are executed to create the origami figure) to assist the origami designer in accurately translating the “body plan” (torso and appendages of the figure and their relative sizes) into the set of folds required to create the figure. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the mathematics, it cannot describe the sequence of folds required, but supposedly (perhaps after 40 years of study), this “isn’t too hard to figure out”. At least it shows whether the folds are up (“valley”) or down (“mountain”).
Along the same lines, but in reverse, we have a very cool capability in SolidWorks - the Sheet Metal Advisor plugin. It can unfold a sheet metal part so that you know exactly what shape the flat sheet needs to be cut to and where to bend. Alex has been learning how to use this, and I’m curious to see how complex of a shape it can unfold. I’m thinking that the combination of the origami design tool and the sheet metal advisor might lead to some unique new design space.
Stay tuned for a photo of a physically realized “reversed dog”, or perhaps a formless wad of paper…
Authored this Tuesday, the 20th of July, in the year of the founding of NextFab Studio, approximately yours, ≈≈≈