Sep 152015

Unlike regular printing which almost all of us know how to do without having to scratch our eyes out, 3D design and printing is in a league of its own. Basically, it’s more tailored towards those who are more tech savvy and actually love creating three-dimensional objects. However, Madeline Gannon – a researcher and teacher at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and PhD candidate in Computational Design – wants to change that. She wants to unleash the designer that is hiding in all of us.

Gone are the days when 3D printers used to be luxury machines. Although there are still rather expensive models these days, technology has advanced so much that anyone with a few hundred dollars to spare can get their hands on a 3D printer. However, as Gannon notes, not everyone can just create original 3D objects.


Enter Tactum

In order to give creative power to ordinary 3D printer owners, Gannon developed a system called Tactum. It’s an innovative software system that gives users the ability to create their own designs for 3D printers by just touching a projected image.

Essentially, one would just have to rub, poke or use any other hand gestures on a projected image which will then become their 3D printed object. Through this process, people can instantly see their object change shape in response to the touches.

The first series of 3D objects Gannon designed made use of a surface that is very much accessible: the human body.

Together with a companion project called Reverb which helps convert user-created designs into printable meshes, Gannon has created bracelets and necklaces with wide-ranging designs, including smooth landscapes and intricate textures.


Further Uses

Tactum’s use in creating fashionable items is just the beginning. The system really proves itself when used in the creation of functional pieces like the custom watchband Gannon designed for a Motorola Moto 360 smartwatch.

Gannon plans to use Tactum for customizing prosthetics and other wearable medical devices. Can you just imagine how better it would be for patients to have a truly customized device? They can collaborate with doctors and a Tactum technician in real time, providing feedback regarding the fit and feel of the device.

Tactum has the potential to produce 3D objects at a rate that is much quicker and at even lower cost. As such, doctors and patients can continually adjust prosthetic limb as they see fit, and also giving the patient a certain degree of personal expression.


The Journey to Maker

Gannon’s path to Maker can be traced back to her trips to museums as a high school student. For her, the buildings interested her more than the exhibits themselves. She realized then that she wanted something to do with architecture.

However, during her last year of architecture school, she experienced the limits of the human-computer interface. In other words, the computer couldn’t produce the ideas from her head. As a result, Gannon plunged herself into computer science.

Fast forward to the present and Gannon now heads MADLAB.CC, a design collective that explores computational approaches to architecture craft and interaction all aimed at exploring the “edges of digital creativity.”


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