<p>3D print any 3D animation you want into a full assembled toy.</p>
What’s your favorite video game character? Chances are, if it’s a classic icon like Mario or Zelda or a popular character like Master Chief, you can probably buy a toy of it to show off your appreciation. But some of the more obscure characters might not have their own action figure, so boohoo, there’ll be no way you can show your love by having it take pride of place in your living room.
Until now! Computer scientists and graphics experts from Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Technische Universität Berlin, and Cornell University have created a software tool—which could take the form of an add-on “3D Print” button for animation software—that turns video game characters and three dimensional animations into 3D printed, fully-articulated toys which come out fully assembled, as if by magic.
A 3D printed character from Spore
In the virtual world, characters and animations can take whatever form they like, the laws of physics don’t apply. That means that making toys from some video game characters could be problematic, because the real world may render them incapable of standing up or their giant one-arm may mean they can’t balance properly.
The software tackles this problem by using optimization techniques, so it creates the best possible model from the digital 3D model, using hinges and ball-and-socket joints while also building in friction for extra support. The researchers demonstrated this by printing characters from the game Spore, which lets players create characters from different limbs and body parts and combine them in nearly any way possible.
From 3D model to printed figure
It’s not just toy enthusiasts who can reap the benefits of this tech, but animators too. 3D printing is already being used by animation studio Laika to aid in stop-motion animation by creating the stop-motion models using 3D printing. Now animators can get a further helping hand, by 3D printing their creations to see how they function in the real world, allowing them to pose their character to gain feedback and insight, just like an artist would with a mannequin.
Photos: Moritz Bächer