South Korean researchers develop user-friendly, 3D printing tech

The new handheld 3D printing technology utilises design functions and tools to make it easier for public use, and is set to be leveraged into the development of a low-cost 3D scanner for mobile devices
Written by Philip Iglauer, Contributor

Researchers in South Korea have developed a handheld 3D scanner that conveniently generates data required in 3D printing, opening up many new user-friendly applications for the general public.

Many of the features of the new 3D printing technology -- including simulation tools, 3D scanning, and content creations -- were demonstrated on Wednesday at the K-ICT 3D Printing Conference 2015 in Seoul.

The technology works by simply scanning an object, manipulating its image on a computer, and "printing" out the new object in 3D, according to the South Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

The technology utilises graphical user interface (GUI) design functions and tools familiar enough to the general public, such as a scroll bar, height and width attributes, and specified target models. The design can be altered with a simple tap of the scroll bar.

The handheld 3D scanner is equipped with geometric correction between multiple cameras and line lasers, precise real-time detection of scanner positions, and a real-time preview of scanned results. Its simulation feature also checks an object's durability and stability before it is fabricated

As well as this, ETRI researchers have leveraged the technology into the development of a low-cost 3D scanner for mobile devices. So, a miniature version of the handheld 3D scanner basically transforms mobile phones into 3D scanners.

The technology is straightforward enough that any non-professional can use the "content-authoring, 3D scanning and simulation" software, making it possible to fabricate any design easily by a contents creator, ETRI said.

"We plan to make more mobile apps and cloud services for non-professionals in order to make 3D printing an everyday resource for people at school or work," said a spokesperson at ETRI.

The built-in support features and simple user interface will dramatically increase the usability of 3D printing for the general public, users having faced difficulties in producing or acquiring the necessary 3D data when using existing 3D printers. It will also simplify user-to-user interaction and support services, making collaboration through a library of 3D printing objects much more straightforward.

The size of the global market for 3D printing, materials and associated services is expected to grow 320 percent in the four years from $3.8 billion in 2014 and to 16.2 billion 2018, according to Statista.

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