New web site helps you ‘breed’ 3-D printable objects
Even though it is still computer-aided design, it’s not CAD in the way most of us think of CAD today. And it’s changing the job of CAD engineers. Instead of designing objects that will eventually be made and sold, the function of CAD engineers is shifting to developing programs that automate design tasks so that anyone, not just engineers, can create. CAD programs are increasingly being viewed as inhibitors to product development precisely because they require some skill to use.
Blame the 3D printing industry for the change. Said Hod Lipson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and computing and information science, “Now that 3-D printing is taking off, the goal is to unshackle the design process, …” Lipson likens the 3-D printing industry to iPods with no music – the printers exist, but the availability of content is bottlenecked by the old methods like CAD that few people know how to use and that stifle creativity.
Cornell University is the latest organization to tackle the current design challenge; Lipson and his students just announced a website that lets anyone point, click, collaborate, and create online in the evolution of printable, three-dimensional objects. They aim to transform the design of art, architecture and artificial intelligence.
Their new interactive website, EndlessForms.com, eliminates the need for skilled engineers to draw in CAD programs, which can be complicated and non-intuitive. The site lets users design their own things without any technical knowledge and using the same principles that guide evolutionary biology. These new design tools free people to focus creativity, instead of being mired in technical details, Lipson said.
The Web site was developed by Jeff Clune, Cornell postdoctoral fellow; Jason Yosinski, Cornell graduate student in engineering; and Eugene Doan, Cornell undergraduate student in the Creative Machines lab of Lipson.
On EndlessForms.com, objects are evolved in the same way that plants and animals are bred. You pick the ones you like and they become the parents of the next generation of objects. As in biological evolution, the offspring look similar, but not identical, to their parents, allowing you to explore different designs. This grounding in developmental biology enables the evolution of complex, natural looking forms.
Users can further evolve, share, and rate these objects, creating a collaborative exploration of designs that, according to Lipson, represents an entirely new way of thinking about design. Users can then have their objects made by 3D printing companies in a range of materials, such as silver, steel, ceramic or sandstone.
Cornell Creative Machines lab