This is a list of project ideas. Most of them are half-formed and will require a great deal of independent thinking and work from the student, but also represent excellent learning opportunities.
Many of these projects deal with the idea of augmented fabrication—the process of designing and fabricating new objects to work with existing objects. You can read more about the basic idea in this short paper, and more about some of the problems faced by novices in this longer paper.
This list of projects is organized into rough categories, illustrating the balance of software/hardware work involved.
A frequent problem for novices in 3D modeling is understanding size. Can we make reference to a database of standardized “familiar objects” (e.g., consumer electronics with known sizes like phones) to use as in-software reference items? This could help novices get an idea of the true size of their model, and possibly could also serve as reference geometry.
Lint for software finds problems in code. Can we make something similar for augmented fabrication? This would involve modifying a 3D design environment to check for problems of symmetry, centering, objects almost but not quite touching, and so on, and providing feedback to the user about these problems.
Fluidics, or fluid logic, is a principle that uses air to perform computation. How can we use this principle to create 3D printed objects that become interactive with only air input? This would allow the quick creation of useful objects without any complex assembly. This project involves a lot of experimentation with fabrication, as well as reading historical literature about design for fluidics.
Lots of fabrication activities concentrate on small, handheld objects. How can we design for larger objects, like furniture? Can we do this at a 1:1 scale, situated in the real world? Augmented reality could be a good way to do this. What kind of tools and visualization ability is needed?
Can we control objects in the environment solely via eye tracking? By using the vestibuluo-ocular reflex, which is the property that keeps our eyes stil when we’re looking at something, we might be able to get information about how the head is moving and use this motion as a control mechanism.
In our lab, we’re looking at pneumatic (air-driven) interaction. However, we need a design environment that allows the construction of tubes, holes, and various other features in 3D meshes. This project would involve using graphics libraries to construct or modify a design environment to make this task easier.
We are working on a large-scale air table—imagine an air hockey table with each jet of air individually controllable. There is a lot of mechanical construction to be done, as well as software work (both Arduino-level and computer control) to create interesting interactions and demos.
Recent work from the CMU Morphing Matter Lab has shown how standard 3D printers using standard plastic can produce objects which change shape when heat is applied. Can we take this principle further, to create objects which move or change shape when a user interacts with them?
Previous research at CMU illustrated acoustic barcodes, a pattern of ridges which make a characteristic sound when scratched. Can we print small areas which have the same property into 3D-printed objects, so that a user can simply use a fingernail and scratch an area of interest? This could be done by varying the layer height or other properties of the 3D printing process.
This short project involves experimenting with “pluggable holes”. An ongoing project looks at using small holes printed into hollow objects to enable pneumatic interaction; however, 3D printing holes at various angles with precision sizes is difficult. The project involves experimenting with a modular system where “plugs” are printed with the holes at a controlled angle so they can be inserted into an object with larger, less-controlled “plug holes”.
This is a relatively straightforward projects, involving following the procedure shown here to build a 3D printer capable of printing objects in soft silicone. This would enable us to make highly flexible 3D-printed objects, which then could become interactive with air or other actuation mechanisms.
It could be useful to embed visually recognizable information into 3D prints. This project involves augmenting a 3D printer to add ultraviolet dye to an in-progress print in such a way that a UV camera can recognize a barcode formed from the dye. This could be used to show that an object is authentic or otherwise indicate its source or identity.