Chinese Researchers Aim to Fold Up Your Whole Room with 3D Printed, Foldable Furniture

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two - desksMany of you may have noticed that lately it’s cooler to look good but have less. We have billionaires driving regular cars and sporting regular clothes, and a generation of thriving, employed individuals with plenty, being flashy as they show off how they sleekly live with less.

From eschewing cars to making homes out of shipping and storage containers, to living on 30 items of clothing per season–it seems that the new ‘hip’ culture is all about taking up the least amount of space, while doing so cleverly and creatively.

Our homes seem to be where it all starts. Now, move over modernists–because just when you think you’ve seen it all in the furniture business, the technology of 3D printing allows it to move to a further, transformative level–and one that could transform the way you live, decorate, and move from space to space. If Chinese researchers Li Honghua andHu Ruizhen from the Simon Fraser University in Canada have anything to do with it, soon we’ll all be able to live in compact spaces like sophisticated New Yorkers–by way of compact, sophisticated furniture.

three - slantsThe resourceful and innovative researchers have developed an algorithm that details if and how a particular piece of furniture you might need can be designed as a completely foldable piece and then easily 3D printed and assembled. Does this mean you could sit at your desk and design the furnishings of your entire home without ever having to consult with or rely on anyone else? Feasibly, yes. This research team, in fact, wants to fold up your entire room.

The researchers have completed a paper titled ‘Foldabilizing Furniture,’ which has just been accepted by The Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH), a top annual conference of computer graphics experts where hundreds of booths exhibit the latest in computer graphics, animation, engineering, electronics, and more. Held in Los Angeles this year in August, the conference includes many interactive displays from August 9-13. This year, attendees will be getting the skinny on this new furniture which the researchers have been able to create with science, ergonomics, and a keen sense of design as well.

“We show numerous foldabilization results computed at interactive speed and 3D-print physical prototypes of these results to demonstrate manufacturability,” state the researchers in their paper.

Taking the Murphy bed into the modern age, the researchers discuss how their furniture, based on foldability with multiple hinges can allow for greater space-saving and efficiency in work or home quarters. Working with a MakerBot Replicator 2, the team fabricated multiple prototypes of their foldable furniture, displaying different parts and thicknesses.

“We print the furniture parts one by one and then assemble them, using a few hinge types we have designed to realize the several folding options,” stated the team. “Note that the reported space saving ratio has been measured using volumes of the tightest bounding box of the input shape and the folded shape.”

one - chairsBut why do we need a mathematical equation to figure all this out? According to authors Honghua Li, Ruizhen Hu, Ibraheem Alhashim, and Hao Zhang, this is where humans need help.

“Foldabilization is not an easy task for humans. It resembles a 3D puzzle with a large search space and a multitude of constraints,” states the paper. “Solving the problem requires delicate spatial reasoning and a keen foresight to adapt to the dynamic changes to the shape configuration as folding sequences proceed.”

“While humans are highly apt at pattern recognition, they are not as skilled at precise 3D manipulation while relying solely on visual guidance.”

The algorithms are meant as a tool so that any designer or individual can explore space-saving options with not only a piece of furniture, but really for any 3D object for which ‘a patch scaffold abstraction is appropriate.’ With the ultimate result being to fold up your whole interior for the most part, the researchers have been engineering different, more complex methods so that shelves inside furniture will fold as well. Not relying just on hinges, they also employ slanting, part disconnection, and patch shrinking.

The team tested 36 pieces of furniture in all regarding foldability, from benches to beds. In 3D printing, the researchers discovered not only can they 3D print the foldable pieces, but it may be possible to print the furniture in one piece, already folded. They are also examining the use and insertion of sliding parts such as drawers.

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While they found the algorithm to be ‘quite efficient,’ the team still considers it to be a work in progress and one that could expand with a wide range of options regarding design, 3D printing, and structures. Affordability is still an issue though, as well as the program’s effectiveness with more complex designs and irregular pattern structures.

Would you find 3D printing your own foldable furniture appealing, and do you think this is something that could catch on? Discuss in the 3D Printed, Foldable Furniture forum over at 3DPB.com.

 

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