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Fabricating Nature and a Physical Turing Test 36

Nwe submitter arrow3D writes "A new startup in Norway is focused on design and fabrication at the level and quality of nature. Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing, to 'support the future of design and manufacturing.' Their software was recently used to create the multi-material Minotaur Helmet by Neri Oxman from MIT, as featured in Wired UK last month. An interesting thought (as recently illustrated in Dilbert) is the idea of a Physical Turing Test for synthetic objects and that both Turing Tests may require each other — i.e. only by designing and building at the resolution of nature can we achieve the intelligence of natural objects. Their software platform is still very much under development but they've started trying to 'save the world from polygons' with a KickStarter campaign that's live now."
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Fabricating Nature and a Physical Turing Test

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  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @04:38PM (#41972995) Journal

    The Slashdot Test: Any submission that includes references to Kickstarter and 3D printing is always posted to the front page.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by johanwanderer ( 1078391 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @04:43PM (#41973059)
  • What about just using NURBS and procedural surface displacement as is common in the film industry..?
    • You know, 'cause they retain the simplicity of manipulation like a mesh, but the smoothness of a NURBS. Oh, and free source code from Pixar ;-)

      I suppose the challenge in either method is the "blending" they're doing.
      • by mill3d ( 1647417 )
        Either, truly ; but I would think a built-in UV space could come in-handy here as well... The article talks about using parametric surfaces as a replacement to polys and voxels. It just sounds like trying reinventing the wheel to me as engineering, CAD and visualization apps have been doing that for years. As for the detail/resolution blending, it seems that having the shell of an object (or limit surface ;^) would be enough geometry-wise and have the lower resolution levels described mathematically shou
    • by Wizarth ( 785742 )

      The same issues as polygons - they break, leaving gaps when performing complex operations (or even not complex, if you don't do it just so).

      It can be made to work, with a lot of effort and experience, but this is a new way that doesn't have those limitations. Not to say it doesn't have others, of course - mostly it's rather slow, compared to surface modelling.

      Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

      • by mill3d ( 1647417 )

        In essence, we're looking at a sort of Post-Script for 3D printers, if I'm not mistaken. I can imagine how this might be slow especially for describing intricate, layered feature sets...

        Are you describing the 3D model being printed as parametric cross-section(s) along the printers' vertical axis then?

        • by Wizarth ( 785742 )

          G-Code is closer to the role PostScript fills in 2d printing, but it's only loosely standardized, and every printer seems to need their own sub dialect of it. That's why there's still a common interchange format being used, with printer specific software/settings being used to produce the G-Code that actually goes to the printer.

          We do support outputting to slice oriented formats (Bitmap and another that I've just gone completely blank on), but we don't use these internally. Instead, our software is using 3D

  • by vmxeo ( 173325 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @05:16PM (#41973497) Homepage Journal

    CG artists and designers know very well the limitations and tediousness of modeling with polygons. Mesh models tend to have all kinds of problems such as cracks, holes and self-intersections. This is due to a disconnect between the real world being represented and the modeling software's attempts to represent real, volumetric, complex and “messy” objects by only surfaces.

    The attack on polygons is rather unwarranted. True, surfaces are only able to visually represent an actual solid object, but then again for most visual media that's all you need them to do. Ever been on a movie set? The walls are thin wood supported by flimsy frames. Floors are painted on. Props and set pieces are often foam. Materials are cheap, lightweight, and easy to handle. There's no way any of that would work for an actual building, but again, it doesn't need to. It just needs to look like it could work.

    Printing real world objects will need to account for much more than simply surfaces, much as a real structure requires more design and construction than a movie set. Developing procedurally generated materials and processes is an important step in making that happen. This goal of this project is to do just that.

    In short: It's new media. New media requires new ways of working.

    • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 )

      Surfaces are the photo of the real object, the trouble with surfaces is that you have to calculate the deception, and in the end the real thing will need much less energy.

      We would not be able to be here if nature wasn't so efficient as it is, so taking natures algorithms and paterns to solve our space/time dilemma's is not such a bad idea.

    • by Wizarth ( 785742 )

      The trouble is, everyone working with the new media is trying to bring the old workflow directly over. For example, the generic file format for 3D printing models is STL - a truly terrible file format that is a simple list of free floating triangles (no shared vertices or anything nice).

      We (the people are Uformia) aren't really aiming for visual modelling. It's the printing we're aiming for. And we think just adding more and more complex methods of describing surfaces isn't enough, especially with the new p

    • I agree. I'm fairly certain they're simply re-inventing wheels here.

      First off, I'd like to know what new way they've decided to define a "pure mathematical volume"... Why, might it be defined by the boundary between its interior and exterior? You know, its SURFACE? Secondly, I'd like to see how a mathematically parametrized surface (used to define a 3D volume) compares to nurbs or subdivision surfaces (both are parametric surfaces already in use in 3D modeling -- the parameters are the relatively spars

      • by Wizarth ( 785742 )

        Without getting into too much detail:

        No, it's boundary is just a side effect of the definition. We use zero value to be the boundary, but that's just a convenient convention.

        NURBS and other parametric surfaces still have limitations. It's very difficult to define complex shapes with them, and the boolean operations often break, leaving you with gaps between patches or surfaces that have no matching other side. The staff and beta testers include people experienced with polygon and NURBS, and there are things

  • "Fabrication at the quality of nature" - A lot of marketing hype right there.

    That aside, if you are not modeling something, and we are modeling still (it lives inside a computer dangit!), you have two choices:
    1) parametric model (finite dimensional)
    2) non-parametric model (infinite dimensional)
    Infinite dimensional of course in the sense of as big of a sample sizes you use.

    Their blog post disses polygon (a parametric model), but I bet that their product still inherently uses it. It also disses voxels,a volum

    • by Wizarth ( 785742 )

      It's definitely marketing hype, but that's the kind of thing marketing is about.

      There's kind of two processes being described in the product. Mesh repair is working with polygons and adding/modifying the polygons to produce a better mesh. This is intended to make better meshes for the second part, which is mesh mixing. Mesh mixing is functional, so can be sampled at any resolution.

      Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @05:18PM (#41973521) Homepage

    Another ad for a Kickstarter campaign. Yawn.

    There many good "organic" modelers. Autodesk Mudbox is widely used by pros. Curved surface volumetric modellers go back a long way. I used one of the very first back in the 1980s, one based on deformable superellipsoids and running on a Symbolics LISP machine.

    As for the "physical Turing test", if your demo reel doesn't show that you can pass that, it won't get you in the door at Pixar.

  • Is anyone else reminded of the Minbari when they look at that helmet? Would that make it a warrior cast?
  • The analogy to the Turing Test doesn't make any sense.

    The Turing Test was proposed as a way to tell if a human-made thing is intelligent, based on an inability to distinguish them from non-human-made things that are assumed to be intelligent, after you conceal all the factors that allow you to tell if the subjects were or weren't human-made.

    The author is proposing the Turing Test is a way to tell if a human-made thing is human-made, based on an inability to distinguish them from non-human-made things that a

  • Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing

    So, identical to existing CAD packages such as Solidworlds, Pro/Engineer, Catia, FreeCAD, OpenSCAD etc? Yeah, that's a totally new generation right there, nobody has marketed products for solid modelling physical objects with the intention of producing them with some sort of additive/subtractive machining process before, no siree.

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