Grafter: remixing 3D printed machines by extracting their mechanisms | 2/9/2018 | Staff
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Researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany have created Grafter, a software system for “remixing” 3D printed machines. The tool allows users to combine mechanisms from multiple 3D printing projects while maintaining the functionality of each mechanism.

The 3D printing community is a place of sharing. Through 3D model platforms like Thingiverse and Pinshape, creators are able to share their CAD creations, which can then be downloaded, modified, and 3D printed by other users. It’s a great system, and one that has produced some spectacular collaborative 3D prints.

Element - Modification - Remixing - Models - Aspect

But the element of modification, often called “remixing,” doesn’t come without it’s problems—especially for 3D printed models that have a functional or mechanical aspect. If makers want to chop and change mechanical systems from one 3D printable model to another, they have to extract certain parts made by one designer and use them with parts made by another designer.

Sometimes this works well, but often makers are left frustrated by compatibility issues: their 3D printed Frankenstein’s monster doesn’t always come together in the way they would like it to.

Problem - Process - Disparate - Mechanisms—has - Interest

This problem of remixing—particularly the process of combing disparate mechanisms—has piqued the interest of a group of researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute. Those researchers (Thijs Roumen, Willi Mueller, and Patrick Baudisch) saw that makers were struggling to piece together parts from multiple models, and consequently created a software system called Grafter that simplifies the process of remixing 3D printed machines.

Grafter ultimately rethinks the approach to remixing 3D printed systems. Instead of taking individual parts from multiple models, the software identifies complete mechanisms (consisting of multiple parts), and treats those mechanisms as unified entities. So instead of letting a user transfer, for example, a single cog from Model A to Model B,...
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