Saying today's 3-D printing industry is akin to iPods with no music, a team of Cornell University engineers have developed a new interactive website that allows users to design their own things without any technical knowledge. The engineers explain that the growing fleet of 3-D printers is largely idle because the availability of 'content' for them is bottlenecked by the old design technologies like CAD that people don't know how to use or don't have access to, stifling creativity.
"Forget draft tables and complicated computer-aided design programs: You dream it. Endless Forms helps you design it," is how EndlessForms.com is described by researchers that developed it.
Created by Jeff Clune, Cornell postdoctoral fellow; Jason Yosinski, Cornell graduate student in engineering; and Eugene Doan, Cornell undergraduate student, EndlessForms.com allows users to develop objects in the manner a gardener raises roses, according to its creators. In the program, a "generation" of objects is displayed, and a user chooses objects they like, which are then "bred" to produce the next generation.
Over time, objects evolve and can be published by users. Visitors to the site can further evolve, share, and rate designs, creating a collaborative exploration that in many ways represents a new way of thinking about design. Users can then have their objects fabricated by 3-D printing companies.
The site's creators say that instead of being mired in technical details, the new design tools free people to focus creativity, eliminating the need for engineers to draw in CAD programs that can be complicated and non-intuitive.