3-D printing has really opened up manufacturing to the masses because anything-food, prosthetics, car accessories–can be created with a 3-D printer. Certainly this is a good thing, however, there’s a big issue with 3-D printing people which don’t often hear about in stories focusing on the miraculous nature of the process. One has to know how to digitally design the things he or she wants to print in order to print them. That’s a huge problem because most people who want to take advantage of 3-D printing have no idea where to even start with computer aided design.
Most local Fab labs have libraries of trinkets and other little items that a user might want to print on demand, but what if a person wants to make something like a custom gun rack, go-kart or book shelf Murphy bed? The solution? Fab By Example.
Fab By Example is the creation of a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab. Fab By Example is a database-driven method that helps people design products. The system has a repository of templates. These database templates contain the specifications for all of the parts it takes to make an item. The templates are also parametric, which according to the MIT News Blog, means that they can take on an infinite number of shapes. Fab By Example features an interface that allows users to drag, drop and connect parts and materials to create items.
Right now Fab By Example’s sample library contains a few thousand templates for things such as cabinets, jungle gyms and go-karts. Future iterations of the system could feature robots, cars, houses and anything that can be made via 3-D printing or other means, and assembled at home.
Once a user designs a product using Fab by Example, he/she would be able to see which parts are needed in order to build that design along with an estimate of the cost. The user would then be able to order the materials directly through the database. The product would still need to be assembled at the user’s location, but in the future Fab By Example’s creators envision linking up with installation services that come out and do the assembling for you.
Fab By Example was developed by Adriana Schulz, a doctorate student in CSAIL and CSAIL postdocs David I.W. Levin and Pitchaya Sitthi-amorn. Wojciech Matusik, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and Ariel Shamir, a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel also helped develop the system. Fab By Example hasn’t been released to the public yet. It will be formally unveiled at the ACM Siggraph graphics conference in Vancouver.
“The technology allows you to design and fabricate practically any off-the-wall idea that’s bouncing around your head,” Schulz said, citing a mega-shelf (pictured above) that takes up nearly an entire room.
Although the software is not meant exclusively for 3D printable designs, there could be quite a few interesting applications for the software in regards to large scale 3D printing. Let’s hear your thoughts on this software in the Fab By Example forum thread on 3DPB.com.