When 3D printing technologies were first adopted for manufacturing decades ago, they were referred to as rapid prototyping machines because compared to old methods, they were able to churn out parts with remarkable speed. But even today's 3D printing technology has room for improvement, and a new technique that involves printing only simple wireframe models should expedite the earliest stages of prototyping a new product.
Researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany and Cornell University have proposed a new approach called WirePrint that uses a 3D printer to recreate the wireframe 3D models most often seen in 3D modelling software. Instead of the printer having to slowly produce a solid model layer by layer, it can simply extrude the thin struts and empty polygons of a wireframe version.
What you're left with is a version of a model that has the same size and shape as the final product, but made with considerably less plastic, and at roughly ten times the speed. The wireframe printout can be used to test ergonomics, how a given product feels to hold, or even how it fits into existing other products. And it makes producing revised copies while a product's form factor is being tested and refined a more streamlined and cost-effective process. [Stefanie Mueller]