3D printing is coming to the soft toy arena with a development at Disney Research Pittsburgh. A paper presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's CHI conference in Seoul, Korea, in April described a new type of 3D printer that can form precise, but soft and deformable 3D objects from layers of off-the-shelf fabric. The printer fabricates soft objects and provides support for interactivity including touch sensing and wireless power.
|3D printer for soft toy development allows incorporation of interactive functionality.|
The printer employs an approach where a sheet of fabric forms each layer of a 3D object. The printer cuts this sheet along the 2D contour of the layer using a laser cutter and then bonds it to previously printed layers using a heat sensitive adhesive. Surrounding fabric in each layer is temporarily retained to provide a removable support structure for layers printed above it. This process is repeated to build up a 3D object layer by layer.
The printer is capable of automatically feeding two separate fabric types into a single print. This allows specially cut layers of conductive fabric to be embedded in soft prints. Using this capability, researchers from Disney, Cornell University, and Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated 3D models with touch sensing capability built into a soft print in one complete printing process, and a simple LED display making use of a conductive fabric coil for wireless power reception.