Three-dimensional printing is nothing new. Indeed, the technology, in its most rudimentary form, has been around since the 1980s.
Still, the world is some distance from fully exploiting its potential. For every news story celebrating advancements on this exploding front, another is decrying its limitations.
One active area of research right now is into so-called “self-actuating” objects. In self-actuating production, material forces transform flat 2D templates into three-dimensional versions, of their own volition.
The earliest forays into this field focused on those objects whose 3D forms were all about the sharp edges with little, if any, curvature. And the methods of transformation have mostly been based on folding or other processes that couldn’t be precisely controlled, like inflation and chemical reactions.
But a pack of Austrian computer scientists has recently blown open both the range of objects capable of production by this route and the level of control available to the process.
Researchers from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria have devised a way to create self-actuating, smooth-surfaced, free-form objects, which they aptly dubbed CurveUps.
This innovation sees a two-dimensional layout of tiny tiles (thousands, in some cases) sandwiched between pre-stretched latex layers. The object self-actuates when tension in the latex draws these tiles together. The final result is a clean, continuous, curvy, mechanically stable 3D piece.
CurveUps researcher Ruslan Guseinov has declared this will “push the limits of digital manufacturing far beyond the current state.”