Combining the appeal of custom-made products and the concept of integrative technology, allowing consumers to interact with what they’re wearing or what their using, Disney’s Research Program is invested in finding a new method of melding the two in a soft, yet viable form-and they’re using a 3D printer to get the job done.
In a new collaborative study between researchers with Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University, Disney is taking the next step of endeavoring into the industry of 3D printing. The company could simply enter the game with current tech, producing toys and products much like their current “Vinylmation” collections, but instead they’re opting for a new view of what this new-age technology can do-making softer, plush products instead.
“We present a new type of 3D printer that can form precise, but soft and deformable 3D objects from layers of off-the shelf fabric” coauthor of the new study from Disney’s Research Program, James McCann says. “Bringing these two threads together, our contribution is a printer that fabricates soft objects and provides support for interactivity including sensing and wireless power.”
“Our printer can create objects with complex 3D geometry, unique effects such as draping, variable flexibility, support for capacitive touch sensing, and even coils made of conductive fabric which can be used for wireless power transmission.”
Printing along a typical Cartesian system, as many other 3D printers do, their unique device differs in its approach by bonding platform layers, cut intricately by lasers for easily tear-away sheets, and it also supports multiple types of fabrics to create printed cloth objects. And though at the end of the printing process you end with a solid, felt-like fabric block, once the support is removed, by peeling the layers away one-by-one, you will reveal a brilliantly devised cuddly creature, or something far more complex.
Starting with the Stanford bunny model, the creators were able to develop an effective printing method that they then refined into multiple more complex objects out of simple geometric shapes. And soon we may even seen familiar faces of Disney characters cut from the same cloth.
“In this study we showcase the basic printing capabilities of our 3D fabric printer in forming soft objects, including complex soft geometries with sharp edges and overhang structures, soft objects with different stiffness in different areas, and soft objects with a draping effect printed with two different types of fabric.”