Merging Augmented Reality With 3D Printing

Technology today is all about experimenting and trying to progress to the next ‘big thing’. 3D printing has been around for more than a few years now and is constantly being used to find new ways to be innovative, being used in various environments from medical to food to create ingenious ways to print.

Augmented reality is a technology that people may have heard of, but not entirely understand even though there are likely to be many who have had hands on experience. It is viewing the real world directly while having moments ‘enhanced’ or ‘augmented’ with computer generated information, most commonly visual or auditory information.

Anyone who watched the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on a screen would have witnessed augmented reality first hand. A section of the ceremony used augmented reality to create a dome of constellations and stars in the stadium that only those watching on television or a screen could see, for those in the stadium they would see nothing.

For those interested in video games, the game Pokémon GO is a famous user of augmented reality, allowing users to ‘catch’ Pokémon in the real world. The game became a viral hit when it was released in 2016, leading to thousands of people across the world using augmented reality frequently.

Combining Augmented Reality With 3D Printing

Researchers from Cornell University in the United States have found a way to combine the two technologies together, allowing designers to create designs in a physical space while a robotic arm prints their work at the same time.

When using a traditional 3D printer, designers have to create their 3D model on a computer screen which is then sent to the printer. It often means that a model will have to be printed before they realise that any adjustments need to be made, however this new method could allow designers to make adjustments much earlier in the design phase.

“The combination of AR and robot allows the designer to use the just-printed part to design their next features. The designer can even directly design and print on an existing physical object. This tightens the process between design and fabrication.” Said Huaishu Peng, Cornell information science doctoral student, in an in article on the Cornell Chronicle.

What is even more unique is that the researchers have developed a technique that is interactive and allows both the Robotic Modelling Assistant and designer to work together. While wearing an AR headset with hand controllers towork, if the designer is working in the front of object that it will know to print in the back and will automatically re-compute any changes that are made in real time.

“In the future, we expect a robotic arm can be an intelligent design assistant,” said Peng. “There is a very promising future for the combination of augmented reality and 3-D printing – for example, for making furniture and other fast printed physical items in a real environment.”


Cornell University

Sarah Jubb