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article imageNew algorithm advances 3D printing

By Tim Sandle     Dec 21, 2014 in Science
Burnaby - Professor Richard Zhang, of Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, has developed a new algorithm for 3D printing. To demonstrate this, with seasonal flair, he has produced some remarkable Christmas trees.
Professor Zhang has produced a 3D Christmas tree using a process with zero material waste. This was achieved through the application of the ever first algorithm for automatically decomposing a 3D object into what are called “pyramidal parts.” A pyramidal part has a flat base with the remainder of the shape forming upwards over the base with no overhangs, so that it looks like a pyramid. Previous research has shown that a pyramidal shape is optimal for 3D printing. This is because this shape incurs no material waste and cuts back on printing time.
3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. The process begins with a virtual design. This is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.
In standard 3D printing, a printer deposits melted plastic layer by layer in a bottom-up fashion. If the shape has an overhang, such as a tree branch, extra material has to be printed beneath it as support. Following this, the additional plastic is waste material and requires removal. This can be complex and it takes considerable time. Furthermore, removing waste material that supports an object’s hollow interior or tiny fragile parts is almost impossible without causing breakage.
This is where Zhang’s algorithm comes in. The novel algorithm partitions objects into a small number of nearly pyramidal parts that can be 3D-printed with little or no material waste. Saving waste in this fashion helps with the economics of 3D printing, which remains a relatively costly process.
Zhang’s research has been published in the journal ACM Transaction on Graphics. The paper called “Approximate Pyramidal Shape Decomposition.”
In related news, technologists have utilized 3D printing technology to produce "bump keys". These are keys capable of opening millions of locks.
More about 3D printing, Algorithm, Computer, Model
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