July 24, 2013, 9:05 AM — Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) wanted to make the design process for 3D printing less complex. So, for inspiration, they turned to a tool that has been used by a company that has specialized in 3D design for decades Pixar.
This week, researchers from MIT's CSAIL team will introduce two papers detailing new processes inspired by Pixar's use of the RenderMan software and RenderMan Interface Specificat (RISpec) to help alleviate the "enormous computational challenges" in current 3D printing processes.
Essentially, RISpec helps translate the fine details of 3D scenes into realistic 3D animations. For the 3D printing market, similar capabilities may prove invaluable.
MIT's project, dubbed OpenFab, is a programmable "pipeline" architecture that aims to eliminate the current problems with designing replicas of complex 3D objects. Currently, to replicate a 3D scene or object, the design tools need to record every detail in high definition, and often generate up to petabytes of data to do so. This naturally creates issues for those without experience using the tools to create such a complex design, and especially those without the processing power to handle that amount of data.
Indeed, others have pointed to the current difficulties with 3D printing as barriers that may prevent the technology from reaching its lofty expectations. Gartner research director Pete Basiliere says that even though the price of enterprise-class 3D printers is expected to drop below $2,000 by 2016, consumers will not adopt them as widely as some have predicted. Even those who purchase a device to install at home may quickly become disappointed if they're not well-versed in the design technology, Basiliere says.
"Once you have that, now you still have to print it out, and depending upon the consumer's skill set, it could be a very difficult process of trial-and-error getting the printer to produce the part that they envisioned," he says. "Not that the printer is incapable, but there may be a need for support structures and other elements in the design that, if the consumer isn't proficient with the software, it leads to a bad print."