Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution
3D exploration of Apollo 11 command module
For nearly 50 years, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia has remained sealed in plexiglass at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. But thanks to some powerful digitization tools, you can now experience what it was like to be inside the spacecraft that carried astronauts to and from the first successful lunar landing.
Seizing a rare opportunity for full access to the command module, the Smithsonian 3D Digitization Program team used a variety of scanning technologies and reality capture software to create a 3D representation of the spacecraft, which you can explore as a 3D printed model, online, or in virtual reality (VR).
In the course of the project, curators gained a better understanding of how the missions were conducted, and even discovered graffiti written by the astronauts on the module’s interior surfaces including coordinates provided by the command center and a calendar marking each day of the mission. The broader impact is that the command module is now digitally archived and gives new and older generations a way to explore and learn about this historic artifact.
Denise Schindler, who was amputated below the right knee after a childhood accident, is already a decorated para-cycling champion, with a silver medal from the 2012 Paralympic Games and two world championships among her list of accomplishments. She typically competes with a handmade, carbon fiber prosthesis, and while effective, the process is a slow and expensive one. But a partnership with Schindler and Autodesk is showing how technologies like 3D printing and generative design are changing the future of making prostheses.
Using cloud-based design software, Autodesk and Schindler’s team were able to model, test, and iterate on different prosthesis designs before 3D printing the final polycarbonate version. The result: a lighter, more aerodynamic prosthesis with more power output, produced in less time and cheaper than the traditional method.
Schindler used this version to participate in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio where she became the first person to compete with a 3D-printed prosthesis (and won a silver and a bronze medal, by the way). It’s another fitting milestone for someone whose motto is “Never stop spinning,” but the ultimate achievement was demonstrating how these new methods of design and manufacturing can help bring affordable prostheses to everyone.
There’s no question that additive manufacturing—or 3D printing—is the future. But the technology has traditionally been limited by small print sizes and poor material performance. Now MX3D is changing all that.
Combining digital design technology, robotics, and traditional industrial production, MX3D will 3D print a bridge over a canal in the center of Amsterdam—demonstrating the tantalizing possibilities for printing large-scale, functional objects.
Employing evolutionary algorithms that imitate how nature accepts or rejects designs, generative design software produces incredibly complex forms that use precise amounts of material, exactly where needed, to create optimized structures that far exceed the performance of a traditional configuration. But until recently, we didn’t have the machines that could produce such forms, at least not on a larger scale.
Enter the robots. Unlike your average industrial robot that performs standardized tasks such as welding or part assembly, these 6-axis robots 3D print metal in mid-air, from virtually any angle, bringing to mind the old trope about building the car while you’re driving it. Well, guess what? MX3D and its robots are using the latest hardware and software to do just that—literally building the bridge as we walk across it.
Courtesy of Hackrod
Begun as a research project to investigate how new technologies can be applied to building a performance car, Hackrod has evolved into the world’s first vehicle chassis engineered by artificial intelligence.
The idea was simple: wire a car with sensors, put it through a punishing series of test drives in California’s Mojave Desert, and use that real-time data to improve the performance of the car. Researchers even wired up the driver to collect data on his brainwaves.
The result was some 20 million data points about the car’s structure and the forces acting on it, which were then plugged into Project Dreamcatcher—a generative design technology—and applied to a 3D model of the existing chassis.
Based on the data retrieved over repeated test runs and the evaluation of the software’s design iterations, a new prototype was developed—so, in essence, the car co-designed itself.
Because the complex forms developed with generative design can be difficult to manufacture using traditional machining, the team plans to use 3D printing as a critical part of the fabrication process to further evolve the car design.
The rapid growth and democratization of remote controlled aerial drone technologies has led to an abundance of options for recreational and professional use. Most, however, are still too fragile for the unique demands of search and rescue operations.
In the wake of Japan’s Fukushima earthquake, Yuki Ogasawara and Ryo Kumeda were motivated to design a first responder aerial drone that could be safely navigated through disaster areas. The ideal design would need to be lightweight, but also rigid and robust enough to protect the drone’s vulnerable electronics and propeller blades.
The duo, along with an extended team of designers, turned to generative design software to create an optimized lattice of protective material across the drone. This lightweight framework not only protects the drone’s delicate components, but also serves as an internal structure where the motors and electronics can be directly mounted.
Using 3D printing and the collaborative feedback of the open source community, the team was able to quickly fabricate, test, and revise their design at a rapid pace. This harmonious balance between human design intention, previously impossible generative design solutions, and desktop fabrication, exemplifies an exciting new path for product development.
Courtesy of Andrew Saunders, University of Pennsylvania
As a professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Andrew Saunders found that teaching students about Baroque architecture through photos and floorplans was inadequate for showing and understanding the design complexities of that period. So, he decided to do something about it.
Recognizing the power of today’s design tools and the era of cloud computing and big data, Saunders traveled to Italy with 16 students to create 3D visualizations and models of some of the most important works of Italian Baroque architecture. This included more than a dozen churches designed by key figures like Borromini, Bernini, and Vittone.
To do so, the group used laser scanners and photogrammetry to capture the interior geometry of the structures. The scans were then imported into visualization and modeling software where, thanks to the power of the cloud, it was able to take all that data and create high-resolution 3D digital models that were 3D printed and used in interactive visualizations.
These detailed representations of the churches’ interiors provide a better lens to examine and analyze the geometry and math that is characteristic of Baroque architecture. As a bonus, these beautiful works of architecture are now digitally archived and preserved to be studied and admired for decades to come.