The Kinematics test belt is here and it fits! This was printed in folded form and produced from a 3D scan of Jessica. You can read about that in our previous post: making a kinematics belt. Next up it is time to make the dress.
We decided to make a belt as the next step towards realizing our Kinematics concept dress. We used a Kinect depth camera to produce a 3D scan of my stomach. Then we used our kinematics software to design the belt and computationally fold it for 3D printing. After folding, the bounding box of the belt was about 60% smaller. This print will provide us with some feedback about fit and durability before we move forward with a dress.
We are steadily progressing on our Kinematics dress project. A gown will be on exhibit at apexart in NYC from March 20 – May 10, 2014 as a part of Coding the body, an exhibit organized by Leah Buechley. We are working to print the first full scale dress sometime in February.
We just received a box from Shapeways that contained our first attempt at printing a crumpled structure… and it worked! While the kinematics system always worked in theory, there were all sorts of issues with tolerances, print orientation, numerical stability, etc that we had to address before it could work in real life. Opening up the box and seeing that the print came out perfectly with smooth movement and no fusion was a huge relief.
Kinematics is a system for 4D printing that creates complex, foldable forms composed of articulated modules. The system provides a way to turn any three-dimensional shape into a flexible structure using 3D printing. Kinematics combines computational geometry techniques with rigid body physics and customization. Practically, Kinematics allows us to take large objects and compress them down for 3D printing through simulation. It also enables the production of intricately patterned wearables that conform flexibly to the body.
Kinematics is a branch of mechanics that describes the motion of objects, often described as the “geometry of motion.” We use the term Kinematics to allude to the core of the project, the use of simulation to model the movement of complex assemblages of jointed parts.
Kinematics produces designs composed of 10’s to 1000’s of unique components that interlock to construct dynamic, mechanical structures. Each component is rigid, but in aggregate they behave as a continuous fabric. Though made of many distinct pieces, these designs require no assembly. Instead the hinge mechanisms are 3D printed in-place and work straight out of the machine.
This project evolved out of a collaboration with Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group which challenged us to create in-person customization experiences for low cost 3D printers. The genesis of the project is discussed at length in The Making of Kinematics.
a tale of two apps
We are releasing two web-based applications: Kinematics and a simplified version called Kinematics @ Home which is completely free to use.
The Kinematics app allows for the creation of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Users can sculpt the shape of their jewelry and control the density of the pattern. Designs created with Kinematics can be ordered in polished 3D-printed nylon in a variety of colors.
The Kinematics @ Home app is targeted at people who already have access to a 3D printer. It’s our first app that allows users to download an STL file for home printing. Enter your wrist size, style your bracelet and click print to receive a free STL file suitable for printing on a Makerbot or similar desktop printer.
Kinematics case study: making a dress
Concurrently with the development of the online applications, we’ve been working on a more advanced software with broader practical applications. Kinematics allows us to design a shape and then fold it into a more compressed form for 3D printing. Items we’ve created so far are flexible, but rigid objects could be created by introducing a hinge joint that locks at a preferred angle. Here we present an example of how Kinematics can be used to create a flexible dress that can be printed in one piece.
The process begins with a 3D scan of the client. This produces an accurate 3D model of the body upon which we draw the form of the desired dress. For this example, the top of the dress conforms exactly to the torso, but the skirt has a larger silhouette, allowing for the dress to drape and flow as the wearer moves.
The surface of the sketched dress is then tessellated with a pattern of triangles. The size of the triangles can be customized by the designer to produce different aesthetic effects as well as different qualities of movement in the dress (the smaller the triangle, the more flexible the structure / the more fabric like it behaves). Next we generate the kinematics structure from the tessellation. Each triangle becomes a panel connected to its neighbors by hinges. The designer can apply different module styles to these panels to create further aesthetic effects.
Finally, we compress the design via simulation so it fits into a 3D printer. This means that an entire gown, much larger than the printer itself, can be produced in a single assembled piece. The simulation uses rigid body physics to accurately model the folding behavior of the design’s nearly 3,000 unique, interconnected parts and find a configuration that fits inside the volume of the printer.
Each jewelry design is a complex assemblage of hinged, triangular parts that behave as a continuous fabric in aggregate. Kinematics jewelry conforms closely to the contours of the human body. This is 21st-century jewelry, designed and manufactured using techniques that did not exist just a few years ago.
Kinematics pieces come in four styles: smooth, angular, polygonal and tetrahedral. Each design takes its name from the module style and number of pieces in the design. For example, Tetra Kinematics 174-n is a tetrahedral style necklace composed of 174 unique modules.
We’ve added eighteen Kinematics designs to our shop, and a limited initial run of each is currently available for purchase. Kinematics jewelry is made of polished 3D printed nylon in a variety of colors. Necklace, earring and bracelet designs are available; the bracelets and necklaces are fastened simply and securely with hidden magnetic clasps. Prices for the collection range from $25 to $350 and most pieces cost less than $100.
Most of our projects start with a natural inspiration, but Kinematics emerged from a very different perspective. This project started with a technical problem: how can we create large objects quickly on a desktop 3D printer?
Last May, Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects division invited us to their headquarters in Sunnyvale to discuss a potential collaboration. They wanted us to develop “aesthetic generators” that related to their new phone, the Moto X. The catch was that these apps needed to generate customized objects that could be 3D printed in under an hour on equipment that was being driven around the country in the MAKEwithMOTO van. Despite what you may have been told, 3D printing is not a particularly fast process. In fact, the more three dimensional an object is, the slower it prints. One hour is a very challenging print time to meet for an object of any significant size.
The question we asked ourselves was how could we create something that was nearly flat, but still took advantage of the new possibilities in 3D printing. Our solution was to print a flat design that could be folded into another shape after printing. What we ended up creating was a NFC-enable bracelet made of a foldable geometric pattern.
From the beginning, this project was focused making the most of the limitations of low-cost 3D printers. Unlike most of our work, which occurs almost entirely digitally before we see a real object, this required extensive physical prototyping. We used our MakerBot Replicator (v1, dual extruder) throughout the prototyping period to develop and refine our concept.
Initially, we weren’t sure it was possible to design interlocking components that a desktop 3D printer could accurately reproduce while being small enough to comfortably wearable. But looking around the 3D printing community site Thingiverse, we found a diverse array of flexible structures all designed to be 3d-printed on low cost machines. Starting from there, we knew that it could be done.
We began by modelling a hinged joint mechanism based on a double-ended cone pin and socket. Cone-based geometry works well because, with the correct angle, it is self supporting, an essential quality for low-cost home printing. We spent a lot of time tweaking tolerances to get the hinge just right: tight enough to not fall apart but loose enough to not fuse together during printing. We kept refining the joint until it was as small as it could be and still print reliably.
With the joint designed, we started out printing simple chains of components. These basic configurations were already fun to play with, but we suspected they could be much more compelling. Taking origami tessellations as inspiration, we started making triangulated, foldable surfaces. Beginning with a regular tiling of equilateral triangles, we modeled the first assemblages entirely by hand. By using hinges to connect together small triangular panels, we were able to create a faceted, fabric-like material.
However, even modelling a simple, repetitive pattern is time consuming and difficult. Before we could continue, we needed to automate the generation of the hinge mechanisms on arbitrarily complex patterns. With that done, we could start to design tools that would let anyone morph and shape a pattern to create their own fabric-like creation. Early experiments also tried different ways we could style the modules or incorporate the multi-material extrusion available on newer desktop printers.
The results were compelling. Not only were were the pieces themselves addictive to play with, but it served as a case study in customization. Using the most inexpensive home printers, we could make complex, fully customized products in under an hour. However, as we worked on the project we realized the Kinematics system opened up a lot more possibilities.
Tessellation to Kinematics
The original application for Motorola had many restrictions. In addition to the driving constraint of needing to quickly produce objects using a low-cost 3D printer, it also had to be used in-person in a van driving around the country. The geometry had to be limited to small objects that consistently printed well. The experience also had to be limited and highly directed. When someone used the app, their first step was walking up to a strange van filled with 3D printers, probably with no idea what was going on. So the app had to convey a lot of information: what someone was making, why they were making it, how to customize it, and how to get it printed. Because so much had to be presented in a short period of time, it was necessary to make the procedure very linear.
Freed from these constraints, we were able to develop a version of the app that was much more open-ended, both in terms of the geometry and the experience. We designed a new hinge for our 3D printing method of choice, SLS. This allowed us to create larger pieces and modules with more complex shapes. We also completely changed how the pieces were designed. Instead of morphing a fixed tessellation, users can manipulate parametric curves to create various shapes that are tessellated on the fly. They can also dramatically adjust the density of triangles, making the results more varied and freeform.
The most exciting thing about switching from extrusion-based to powder-based printing was that we could now design objects that were not self supporting. Though kinematics was originally developed to print three dimensional objects flat, allowing objects to be anywhere in space opened up new possibilities. The fabric-like quality of the designs we were producing got us thinking about making larger three-dimensional wearables like dresses. We realized that Kinematics had broader implications for printing arbitrary objects. We can take any shape and transform it into a flexible structure. These structures can then be digitally folded into more compressed shapes enabling the construction of objects much larger than the 3D printer’s build volume.
The project makes use of two libraries. One is glMatrix, which we use in all our projects for vector and matrix operations. It is a simple and fast library that does one function and does it well. This is exactly the type of library I love to use: flexible enough to fit in any situation and not bloated with unnecessary functionality.
We’ve also started internally developing modular code components which we can apply to other projects. glShader takes care of loading and processing of GLSL shader programs. It asynchronously loads external shader files and extracts all the attributes and uniforms from the shaders, providing helper functions to simplify working with WebGL.
The simulation portion of the Kinematics project happens outside the browser. We use openFrameworks and BulletPhysics to perform the compression of Kinematics models. BulletPhysics is an open-source physics engine used primarily for rigid body mechanics in games. It is a powerful and fast tool for physics simulation, supporting constraints, collisions, forces, and even soft bodies. There is a browser-based port of Bullet that we are in the process of incorporating as well.
Special thanks to Motorola ATAP for getting us started down this road (especially Daniel, Andrew, and Paul). Thank you Thingiverse for inspiring us and Makerbot for giving us the printer we used for prototyping. And thank you to Artec 3d for proving the 3D scan we used to develop the concept dress.
Three of Nervous System’s Hyphae lamps are currently on display at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in an exhibition called Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital. The show opened on October 16th and continues until July 6th, 2014. The three one-of-a-kind lamps were “grown” specifically for this exhibition and range in size from 18x18x28 cm to 24x24x34 cm. You can read more about our Hyphae Lamps here. Our Cell Cycle design app is also on display in an interactive section of the exhibition.
Out of Hand is the first major museum exhibition to explore the impact of various digital fabrication technologies on human creativity. The exhibition underscores the phenomenon of artists using new technologies to manifest previously intangible digital designs. At the same time, the exhibition illuminates some of the ways digital fabrication is fundamentally altering both the process and the perception of artistic creation. The complexity of many of the pieces on display and the curatorial emphasis on fabrication push questions of manufacture and material to the forefront without offering much commentary on issues of aesthetics, meaning or history.
I found that the show’s focus on final objects and their manufacture had the effect of obscuring the time-consuming, demanding, and original digital design work that went into the pieces on display. Little attention is given to how artists use programming or digital modeling, which may inadvertently lend weight to the common misconception that now, in the age of digital design, computers are doing all the hard work for us.
The Museum of Arts and Design seems well-suited to a show that is primarily focused on manufacture. I found Out of Hand to be well-curated, featuring a broad range of pieces and artists without losing focus. I think many of the pieces included in the show are challenging, evocative, and beautiful. This exhibition makes it clear that the technology used to manufacture an object necessarily guides design choices, even in the world of seemingly endless possibilities ushered in by ubiquitous 3D printing. If the medium is the message, then the message of Out of Hand is clear: humanity is transitioning from a purely physical existence to something between physical and digital that offers us new, exciting, and sometimes unsettling options for how we do everything, including how we create art.
We recently prototyped some of our most popular 3d-printed jewelry designs in gold-plated brass. These are produced in the same way as our sterling silver designs. First, they are 3d-printed in wax at a high resolution. Then, they are cast in brass using the lost wax method. Finally, they are polished and plated with 22kt gold. We are not sure if we are going to add this material to our collection. But, the limited stock we have available is currently for sale in the Nervous System Etsy Shop. You can see the pieces we have available below.
Organic branching forms emerge from the top of this intricate sterling silver ring. The complex structure recalls the forms of stony corals and dendritic crystals. Each ring is 3d-printed in wax, cast in precious metal, and then polished to a mirror finish.
This is the first piece in our Laplacian collection. Laplacian growth is a term that describes structures which expand at a rate proportional to the gradient of a laplacian field. This type of growth is seen in a myriad of natural systems, including crystal formation, stony coral growth, and the formation of lightning.
The ring is available in US ring sizes 5,6,7, and 8 in sterling silver for $300 and brass for $210. We currently have a silver size 7 in stock and the rest are made to order. The ring is in our shop here.
The growth process is a numerical model of 3D isotropic dendritic solidification, you can see a video of our system below.
Last week, Jesse and I visited the relatively new Shapeways factory in Long Island City, NY. It was great to finally be able to see where our products are 3D printed. When we first started working with Shapeways, they were based exclusively in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. About a year ago, they opened up their first manufacturing facility in the USA. Duann Scott, designer evangelist at Shapeways and all around awesome guy, showed us around. Since not all of you can make it to NYC for a tour, I figured I would post some photos and observations here.
The factory is in a nondescript industrial building with no signage. After some stair climbing and hallway navigating we reach Shapeways. On first impression, everything is white. The floor is white, the walls are white, the machines are white, the 3D prints are white and to top it off a fine white powder of nylon coats every surface. The factory has three different 3 printing technologies on site: Selective Laser Sintering, full color zprinting, and multi-jet resin printing. I’ll describe their setup for all three processes.
Selective Laser Sintering
The Shapeways NY factory has a truly impressive number of EOS selective laser sintering printers at the factory. These are the machines that print all of the nylon (or “white strong and flexible” as Shapeways calls it) parts and thus a large proportion of everything we sell at Nervous System. They have two rooms of these machines. One with about 4 medium sized EOS SINT P 395‘s and one giant EOS SINT P 760. And another room of smaller sized EOS Formiga p110 machines. The smaller Formiga machines are the ones being used for Shapeways new fast turnaround time for orders of White Strong and Flexible models (ships in 6 business days) which explains why those quick ship times are limited to designs less than 20cm. Considering that each one of these printers costs on the order of a half million dollars….that’s a lot of SLS machines! Correspondingly, a lot of man hours seems to go into planning the print jobs for those machines. Orders from many customers are painstakingly and efficiently packed into the build volume of each machine.
a tiny EOS formiga machine (left), a funky dust proof keyboards that comes with the EOS machines
We were told that printing a full build on one of the EOS SINT P 395′s takes around 36 hours and up to 48 hours on the P 760. During the week, they tend to run smaller builds on the machines that take around 12 hours each. During the sinter process, the nylon powder is heated to just below melting point in the build chamber. That means there is less thermal shock when the laser selectively sinters the 3d print. But it also means that after printing each build has to cool down for the same number of hours as 3d print time. So when they print a 36 hour job, it has to cool for 36 hours. When you take into account the scarcity of printers, print time, cooling time, and then man hours to depowder and do quality control on the prints – I start thinking that 6 day turn around time is quite impressive. It’s hard to imagine them being able to do it much faster without dramatically raising prices to account for inefficient use of the build volume.
After cooling, the nylon parts go through 3 stages of depowdering including a round of bead blasting. If parts have been ordered in a polished finish, they are then added to a giant rotary tumbler with cylindrical ceramic media and a mild alkaline solution. After polishing, nylon parts are colored in acid dye baths in stainless steel kitchen pots on hot plates.
Multi-jet resin printing
The resin 3d-printers live in a room isolated from the nylon dust of the SLS machines. They appeared to have 4 or 5 Projet 3000 machines from 3D systems. These machines work by jetting two materials, a clear plastic resin and a wax support that is cured with UV light. Shapeways uses them to produce their FUD (frosted ultra detail) material. It seemed like the majority of parts being printed on these machines were very small (size of my fingertip) scale models. After printing, the plastic parts are embedded in a block of wax support material. To remove the parts, the blocks are heated in a kiln to about 68 C/ 150 F and then cleaned in an ultrasonic bath. They use tea strainers to hold the parts in the bath, but it still seems like it must be very hard to keep track of all the minuscule parts through the various cleaning and checking operations. At the end of the process, they dry the parts in a beef jerky dehydrator (not kidding).
the kilns for removing wax support (left), the beef jerky makers for drying the resin parts (right)
Full color zprinting
In yet another room isolated from the nylon dust, Shapeways NY has a single Projet 660 full color powder printer from 3D systems. This machine works off the inkjet-inspired process developed by Z Corp that binds white plaster powder by printing colored glue. The process can produce photo-realistic parts. In one room, they have the printer, a depowdering station and an infiltration station. When parts come out of the machine, they are quite fragile and must be infiltrated with a cyanoacrylate (super glue) solution to strengthen the parts.
The Shapeways LIC factory seems to have grown tremendously in it’s first year of operation. I was impressed to hear that all US orders of nylon prints are currently being produced there. That’s a huge step forward from a year ago when parts were being made at the Einhoven factory or being outsourced to other companies. The facility seemed well organized, with plenty of room for expansion should more machines be necessary. It seems like the main areas of difficulty are planning out printer builds (how to pack hundreds of designs from different people’s orders) and how to track the produced parts through quality control and shipping. Is anyone working on a good packing algorithm for 3d models? What about using computer vision to identify and check 3D prints? I’m sure Shapeways would pay well for that technology.
Thanks for showing us around Duann! And a special hi to our customer service rep at Shapeways, Gary!
this is Gary, our customer service rep
We’ve been working hard the past few months and are excited to share some details on a few of the projects and events that have been keeping us busy!
In May, we exhibited our latest lighting and furniture designs a the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. ICFF is a beautiful and inspiring exhibition and trade show that happens in conjunction with New York Design Week. We were also excited to be involved with a new project called DesignX that focuses on cutting-edge technologies. In the DesignX booth, Jesse and Jessica taught workshops on 3d-printing and online design customization to a group of excited 3d-printing and design enthusiasts.
At our booth, we showed our newest Hyphae lamp designs, including the recently added pendant (shown above) and wall sconce lamp designs. All of our one-of-a-kind lamp designs have been restocked on our retail webpage and several of these designs are available for immediate shipment. We also showed tables created in our soon-to-be-released Radiolaria custom furniture app (Keep reading for more details on our upcoming app release!)
Jesse and Jessica installing our booth display at ICFF
These are our new Hyphae wall sconces – available soon on our retail page!
Our ICFF booth! We love how our display came together so I recently installed it in our showroom
We love the way it looks against our awesome green wall!
Full moon necklaces
Our ever-popular full moon necklaces are back in stock in both stainless steel and 24k gold plated on our retail site. Each of these one-of-a-kind pendants is a pattern generated by aggregating tiny circles of varying sizes into a complex configuration within a circular boundary. The process we use mimics the growth of corals and other branching forms in nature. They make a really unique gift with an edition number etched onto one side of each one-of-a-kind necklace.
Sneak peek! Radiolaria table app
As promised, here is a little more about our soon-to-be-released custom table app!
At ICFF, we enjoyed letting people experiment with our Radiolaria web application for designing furniture. We also showed three prototype tables generated in the app and fabricated from baltic birch plywood using a CNC router. Using the app, you will be able to dynamically sculpt the table’s patterned top and select cells to hold plexiglass inserts. You can also choose your table’s height, number of legs and finish. We are still working on some finishing touches, so stay tuned for an update when the application goes live!