Hardware Design for Soft Stuff with Tricky Physics
THE SNACKFAX: A 3D PRINTER FOR CAKE FROSTING, 2005-2006
Kids in the future will send each other gifts of tasty treats that look like different crazy characters and animals. Duh, we’re totally going to be faxing each other snacks! This was a fun, very low precision =) 3D printer that got kids super psyched about technology and programming. Might have had something to do with the sugar too!
When Makerbot was but a twinkle in Bre’s eye, he covered the Snackfax for Make’s Video Podcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MPA3XdBrIQ.
My first year at ITP, I was obsessed with 3D printers, fluid dynamics, and food. I collaborated with different classmates at times to make several different 3D printers. Chris Kucinski and I made the Snackfax, which used four different colored cartridges of frosting and either a virtual controller in Processing or an arcade joystick setup. Chris and I both worked on all aspects of the software, hardware, and mechanics for the Snackfax, but Chris did the precision tooling and I wrote most of the processing code. Tikva Morowati did marketing for the project.
The first 3D food printer I made with programmer Josh Knowles, used cheeze wiz and a hacked turntable to generate radial 3D cheese sculptures. Josh wrote the more complicated math programming for the circular motion control. I built the machine.
HACKING 3D KNITTING MACHINES, 2007
3D knitting machines are a little known contender in the realm of fabbing (3D printers, CNC milling, etc). That’s because you have to go through 2 years of textile design to figure out how to use their clunky interfaces. A 2D interface controls a 3D tool!!?!. These machines can wind fibers into complex forms, e.g. a knitted sphere, that would be virtually impossible to create otherwise. I am working on a software bridge to a 3D interface. On one side is, Maya, an animation program used by architects and game designers to render shapes in 3D. On the other end is the algorithm that runs the 3D knitting machine’s software. I hope to open up this powerful fab platform to a class of folks ready to take it to its limits as an opensource software project. My personal interests lie in creating 3D dimensional catenary shapes, a la Antonio Gaudi, out of hard fibers like kevlar and carbon fiber to employ the unique physical properties of fiber at a large scale as furniture or permeable building structures with organic topologies. The boundaries to my success lie in the IP philosophy of the companies who make these expensive machines. Will they risk letting me hack their interface for the possibility of opening up a new market? (Answer 4 years later: no.)