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Significant Progress in 3D Printing: Coarse-to-Fine Fabrication of Large Objects  
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A significant progress in 3D printing (Fast Prototyping) has been made by the Graphics and Geometric Computing Laboratory and Maker Space research group in the School of Mathematical Sciences, National Center for Mathematics and Interdisciplinary Sciences, CAS (Hefei). A fast and cost-effective technique is developed for fabricating large 3D objects. This research has been accepted by the 43rd International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH 2016) and will be published in the TOP journal of computer graphics, ACM Transactions on Graphics. The homepage of the project is as follows:

http://staff.ustc.edu.cn/~songpeng/subpage/2016-SIGGRAPH-CofiFab/index.html

Figure 1. A computational solution to fabricate large objects is developed by taking advantage of the complementary strengths of 3D printing and 2D laser cutting.


3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, offers sufficient shape complexity and resolution to fabricate various physical objects and has been well widely used during the last few years. However, one of the critical issues of 3D printing is that the sizes of fabricated objects are limited by the 3D printer’s working volume. In contrast, 2D laser cutting, though only can produce 2D objects, can provide rapid and low-cost solution for 2D manufacturing. The goal of this research is to develop a computational solution to fabricate large objects by taking advantage of the complementary strengths of 3D printing and 2D laser cutting, satisfying various fabrication requirements.


To achieve this goal, this research represents a given 3D shape as multiple coarse polyhedral bases inside the object, and a fine geometric shell over the bases. The bases, produced by laser cutters with low material cost and high fabrication speed, are assembled with a well-designed network of interlocking joints. The shell, which can be further decomposed into thin pieces, is realized by 3D printers and attached to the bases with printed screws and bolts. Experimental results show that 60% of the total material and time cost can be saved, compared with a simple partitioning method. Besides cost saving, these components also consider aesthetics, stability and balancing. This research has drawn great attention from the 3D printing industry and some of them have expressed their intention to collaborate on commercializing the techniques.


The Maker Space is located in the 12nd Floor of Management and Research Building, School of Mathematical Sciences, East Campus, USTC. Various kinds of facilities include 3D printers, laser-cutting machine, 6-axis robot arm, mobile robot platform, unmanned aerial vehicle and toolkits offer an open environment and experimental platform for undergraduate students to create innovative hardware and software. A number of research papers from the members of Maker Space have been published on distinguished international journals. Ziqi Wang, a junior student from the School of Mathematical Sciences and also an intern in the Maker Space, is one of the major contributors of this research project.


Figure 2. The Maker Space in the School of Mathematical Sciences

The first author, Assoc. Prof. Peng Song, is from the School of Computer Sciences and Technology, and the corresponding author, Prof. Ligang Liu, is from the School of Mathematical Sciences.

This work is supported by the National Natural Science Fund for Excellent Young Scholars of China, the Young Scientists Fund of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the One Hundred Talent Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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