Here is an excellent write up of the investigations that lead Nervous System to their Kinematics apps. Making of Nervous System’s Kinematics 4D Design for 3D Printing App @ the Nervous System blog:
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?
…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 modeling 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 modeling 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….
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!