Researchers at Purdue and Adobe's Advanced Technology Labs have jointly developed a program that automatically imparts strength to objects before they are printed.
"It runs a structural analysis, finds the problematic part and then automatically picks one of the three possible solutions," Benes said.
Findings were detailed in a paper presented during the SIGGRAPH 2012 conference in August. Former Purdue doctoral student Ondrej Stava created the software application, which automatically strengthens objects either by increasing the thickness of key structural elements or by adding struts. The tool also uses a third option, reducing the stress on structural elements by hollowing out overweight elements.
"We not only make the objects structurally better, but we also make them much more inexpensive," Mech said. "We have demonstrated a weight and cost savings of 80 percent."
The new tool automatically identifies "grip positions" where a person is likely to grasp the object. A "lightweight structural analysis solver" analyzes the object using a mesh-based simulation. It requires less computing power than traditional finite-element modeling tools, which are used in high-precision work such as designing jet engine turbine blades.
"The 3-D printing doesn't have to be so precise, so we developed our own structural analysis program that doesn't pay significant attention to really high precision," Benes said.
Future research may focus on better understanding how structural strength is influenced by the layered nature of 3-D-printed objects. The researchers may also expand their algorithms to include printed models that have moving parts.
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