As we’ve seen over the last few months, Disney has become very interested in 3D printing – perhaps because they are envisioning a future for custom 3D printed toys and merchandise. But in many ways, reliable 3D printing production is still very limited. From high-res 3D printing processes to replicating reflective properties onto 3D printed surfaces, Disney has therefore been tackling various manufacturing challenges. And with their newest computer model, they have tackled what could be the most important issue for 3D printed toys: how people perceive the softness of 3D printed objects.
For that is something that is largely unpredictable. Identical 3D printed objects made on two separate 3D printers don’t necessarily feel the same, and a lot of factors are involved – from materials and textures to expectations. According to Disney researcher David Levin, predicting the softness factors could be crucial for the production of interchangeable and predictable toys.
Together with MIT’s Wojciech Matusik and reseachers Piotr Didyk, Michal Piovarči, Hanspeter Pfister, Jason Rebello, Desai Chen and Roman Durikovič, he therefore developed a new computer model that can be used to predict the softness or stiffness of certain 3D printable materials. Their findings have just been published in a paper entitled An interaction-Aware, Perceptual Model for Non-Linear Elastic Objects.
As you can expect, this is a very challenging issue because touch is everything – from shoppers to doctors, everyone uses it and haptic impression is arguably one of the most important senses we have. While a lot can be achieved with material choices, 3D printers are unfortunately limited to a select group of options – and when 3D printed all those materials bring their own haptic properties to the table. Finally, the 3D printers themselves and the parameters used can all affect the final results.