One of the greatest things about 3D printing is that it allows anyone to get in on the designing and manufacturing of objects. It democratizes the making of things and we've already seen the power of that from 3D printed "magic" arms for a girl who couldn't lift her arms before to tools you need for your garden. But with this widespread ability to create and make, there's one thing that will be true: not all designs will be winners. There will be plenty of failed attempts and just poorly executed objects.
That's where researchers at Purdue University are coming to the rescue. They've created software that analyzes 3D designs and alters them to make them more structurally sound before they're printed. It identifies weak spots and adds strengthening features like struts or hollows out designs where they might be too heavy. It also finds the places where an object is most likely to be grasped since those spots will be under the most stress and adds reinforcing features if necessary, like thickening material in that area.
Below you can see a 3D printed object before and after the design was subjected to the software.
The software also cuts down on waste. Better, more structurally sound objects from the beginning means fewer failed attempts being thrown in the trash. The researchers also found that the software reduced the material needed for a design. In lab tests, weight and cost of making the objects were both slashed by 80 percent.
The team is now working on expanding the software to improve designs with moving parts.