Parametric CAD Model with Arduino + Wii

As discussed in a recent post about generative design, I’ve been working on an interactive, generative CAD model to be exhibited at Design Philadelphia, in the Crane Arts Center. Well here is a preview of the [nearly] complete CAD model created using Grasshopper and Firefly within Rhino. Using 2 Wii Nunchuck controllers, 2 people can work together to customise the design of a 3D printable light cover in the form of a lightbulb – in essence, CAD modelling has been turned into a game that requires no instruction and is learned through play.

The biggest challenge with this has been getting the signal out of the Wii controllers. While Firefly has built-in Wii Nunchuck compatability, unfortunately I learned the hard way that it is only compatible with genuine Nintendo Wii Nunchuck’s – and I already bought 3rd party ones off Ebay for a fraction of the price. For some reason 3rd party controllers use a slightly different signal/code, and while the Wii console has no problems with this, the Arduino code is a little more particular. Thankfully after an entire day of messing around, ripping apart controllers, tweaking code and swearing, I managed to find a way in! I had to modify some Arduino code and also use the Serial Read tool in Firefly, running the Arduino IDE in the background and listening in to the readings.

As mentioned in the video I am 3D printing 6 examples of what these outputs look like in real life – this model is not just for fun, it is actually designed to create real products suitable for 3D printing, based off a previous design of mine for a Shattered Faceted Lightbulb which you can download for free on both Pinshape and Thingiverse.

Stay tuned for a look at these 6 prints, which have been printing for the last 94 hours on a Fortus 250mc 3D printer. Yes, 94 hours!

– Posted by James Novak


A Game of Generative Design

150824 Lightbulb

A few weeks ago I designed a 3D printable light cover (lampshade) inspired by a shattered lightbulb – you can read more about it and download the STL file for free by clicking here. I’ve been taking the concept a bit further using Grasshopper in Rhino to explore the ability to generatively create endless forms within the exact same bounds, meaning every iteration can be successfully 3D printed. Above are some of the outputs from this experimentation.

These are going to be 3D printed for an upcoming exhibition at Design Philadelphia, along with the complete interactive CAD model which will allow 2 people to work together to customise the lamp design using Wii game controllers, turning the design process into a game-like experience. There’s a bit of work left to go to get this interactive element right, but it will hopefully show how CAD may move from being a complex, time-consuming skill to learn into something much more tactile and interactive for the every-day consumer. There are already a handful of interesting apps surfacing such as the Shape Maker tool from Makerbot, or the 2D to 3D tool from Shapeways, which make creating 3D files as simple as drawing a sketch on paper and taking a photo. But generative tools like I’m working on may be the next generation, allowing far more intricate and complex forms.

What do you think would be useful for non-designers to create 3D CAD files?

– Posted by James Novak

First Nervous System 3D Print

150504 Nervous SystemOne of my favourite design studios working with 3D printing has always been Nervous System, with their generative designs that can be customised live on their website. Always an amazing source of inspiration and worth checking out, particularly some of their latest work with 3D printed dresses. Thankfully they’ve shared some of their work on Thingiverse, so that anyone with a 3D printer can download and print some of their products for free!

With an upcoming presentation to give at a local careers day, I thought this Regular Cell Cycle Bracelet would be a fun example to add to my kit and show students. Unfortunately the slipping problem I’ve written about a few times with my Up! Plus 2 3D printer seems to have reared its head again (refer to previous posts), but thankfully the bracelet itself still built without any problems. What’s really great about this particular design is that it prints without any support material, so requires almost no cleanup. To add a bit of a twist I swapped printing filament towards the end, creating the green section which I think looks quite cool. If you’re after something that really embodies some of the fantastic opportunities provided through 3d printing, this certainly ticks the boxes.

– Posted by James Novak

Generative Design Experiments

Test LineupFor a while I’ve been interested in the idea of generative design – where 3D CAD files can automatically generate endless forms in response to certain inputs from the user, or through algorithms or random events. Today I’ve started playing with a free piece of software called Genoform which plugs into Solidworks, along with Rhino or Inventor. You can see how powerful it is from the images above; the top left form is my original creation in Solidworks, and the other 25 are the outcome of a few seconds of processing by Genoform. Talk about concept generation in the blink of an eye!

This is the first time I’ve seen something like this that works with Solidworks, and it looks as if you can get right into the detailed settings to control certain dimensions, and only allow a set few to change between iterations. Very powerful, and quite exciting in terms of the future of CAD software. Certainly reminds me of the great work being done by nervous system and their online tools for customising 3D printable designs. If you haven’t seen their work, I highly recommend checking it out and even downloading some of their designs from Thingiverse to 3D print yourself.

– Posted by James Novak