Materials Research

The computational material group investigates novel algorithms and approaches for acquiring, simulating, and fabricating materials and objects. Our vision is to bridge the gap between the virtual and real world, allowing seamless transitions using novel measurement and rapid prototyping devices. We also focus on the representation and intuitive editing of material properties, allowing to design and create custom products for unique customer experiences.


(in alphabetical order)

Boxelization: Folding 3D Objects Into Boxes
We present a method for transforming a 3D object into a cube or a box using a continuous folding sequence. Our method produces a single, connected object that can be physically fabricated and folded from one shape to the other. We segment the object into voxels and search for a voxel-tree that can fold from the input shape to the target shape. This involves three major steps: finding a good voxelization, finding the tree structure that can form the input and target shapes’ configurations, and finding a non-intersecting folding sequence. We demonstrate our results on several input 3D objects and also physically fabricate some using a 3D printer.

Computational Design of Actuated Deformable Characters
We present a method for fabrication-oriented design of actuated deformable characters that allows a user to automatically create physical replicas of digitally designed characters using rapid manufacturing technologies. Given a deformable character and a set of target poses as input, our method computes a small set of actuators along with their locations on the surface and optimizes the internal material distribution such that the resulting character exhibits the desired deformation behavior. We approach this problem with a dedicated algorithm that combines finite-element analysis, sparse regularization, and constrained optimization. We validate our pipeline on a set of two- and three-dimensional example characters and present results in simulation and physically-fabricated prototypes.

Computational Design of Mechanical Characters
We developed an interactive design system that allows non-expert users to create animated mechanical characters. Given an articulated character as input, the user iteratively creates an animation by sketching motion curves indicating how different parts of the character should move. For each motion curve, our framework creates an optimized mechanism that reproduces it as closely as possible. The resulting mechanisms are attached to the character and then connected to each other using gear trains, which are created in a semi-automated fashion. The mechanical assemblies generated with our system can be driven with a single input driver, such as a hand-operated crank or an electric motor, and they can be fabricated using rapid prototyping devices.

We demonstrate the versatility of our approach by designing a wide range of mechanical characters, several of which we manufactured using 3D printing. While our pipeline is designed for characters driven by planar mechanisms, significant parts of it extend directly to non-planar mechanisms, allowing us to create characters with compelling 3D motions.

Design and Fabrication of Materials with Desired Deformation Behavior
This project introduces a data-driven process for designing and fabricating materials with desired deformation behavior. Our process starts with measuring deformation properties of base materials. For each base material we acquire a set of example deformations, and we represent the material as a non-linear stress-strain relationship in a finite-element model.

We have validated our material measurement process by comparing simulations of arbitrary stacks of base materials with measured deformations of fabricated material stacks. After material measurement, our process continues with designing stacked layers of base materials. We introduce an optimization process that finds the best combination of stacked layers that meets a user’s criteria specified by example deformations. Our algorithm employs a number of strategies to prune poor solutions from the combinatorial search space. We demonstrate the complete process by designing and fabricating objects with complex heterogeneous materials using modern multi-material 3D printers.

Designing Inflatable Structures
We propose an interactive, optimization-in-the-loop tool for designing inflatable structures. Given a target shape, the user draws a network of seams defining desired segment boundaries in 3D. Our method computes optimally-shaped flat panels for the segments, such that the inflated structure is as close as possible to the target while satisfying the desired seam positions. Our approach is underpinned by physics-based pattern optimization, accurate coarse-scale simulation using tension field theory, and a specialized constraint-optimization method. Our system is fast enough to warrant interactive exploration of different seam layouts, including internal connections, and their effects on the inflated shape. We demonstrate the resulting design process on a varied set of simulation examples, some of which we have fabricated, demonstrating excellent agreement with the design intent.

Fabricating Translucent Materials Using Continuous Pigment Mixtures
We present a method for practical physical reproduction and design of homogeneous materials with desired subsurface scattering. Our process uses a collection of different pigments that can be suspended in a clear base material. Our goal is to determine pigment concentrations that best reproduce the appearance and subsurface scattering of a given target material. In order to achieve this task we first fabricate a collection of material samples composed of known mixtures of the available pigments with the base material. We then acquire their reflectance profiles using a custom-built measurement device. We use the same device to measure the reflectance profile of a target material. Based on the database of mappings from pigment concentrations to reflectance profiles, we use an optimization process to compute the concentration of pigments to best replicate the target material appearance. We demonstrate the practicality of our method by reproducing a variety of different translucent materials. We also present a tool that allows the user to explore the range of achievable appearances for a given set of pigments.

Goal-Based Caustic Design and Fabrication
We propose a system for designing and manufacturing transparent/refractive surfaces such that when light passes through them the focusing/bending of light produces a desired image (caustic). Our surfaces are arrays of micro-lenses. Each micro-lens focuses light to a anisotropic Gaussian footprint at some specified projection plane. Given a budget of NxN micro-lenses, we approximate a desired image as a superposition of anisotropic Gaussians. We then perform an optimization process to assign each Gaussian footprints to a micro-lens such that the resulting surface meets certain constraints imposed by the manufacturing process

Physical Face Cloning
We propose a complete process for designing, simulating, and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions. The process starts with measuring the elastic properties of a material used to manufacture synthetic soft tissue. Given these measurements we use physics-based simulation to predict the behavior of a face when it is driven by the underlying robotic actuation. Next, we capture 3D facial expressions for a given target subject. As the key component of our process, we present a novel optimization scheme that determines the shape of the synthetic skin as well as the actuation parameters that provide the best match to the target expressions. We demonstrate this computational skin design by physically cloning a real human face onto an animatronics figure.

Spin-It: Optimizing Moment of Inertia for Spinnable Objects
Spinning tops and yo-yos have long fascinated cultures around the world with their unexpected, graceful motions that seemingly elude gravity. We present an algorithm to generate designs for spinning objects by optimizing rotational dynamics properties. As input, the user provides a solid 3D model and a desired axis of rotation. Our approach then modifies the mass distribution such that the principal directions of the moment of inertia align with the target rotation frame. We augment the model by creating voids inside its volume, with interior fill represented by an adaptive multi-resolution voxelization. The discrete voxel fill values are optimized using a continuous, nonlinear formulation. Further, we optimize for rotational stability by maximizing the dominant principal moment. We extend our technique to incorporate deformation and multiple materials for cases where internal voids alone are insufficient. Our method is well-suited for a variety of 3D printed models, ranging from characters to abstract shapes. We demonstrate tops and yo-yos that spin surprisingly stably despite their asymmetric appearance.

The Magic Lens: Refractive Steganography
We present an automatic approach to design and manufacture passive display devices based on optical hidden image decoding. Motivated by classical steganography techniques we construct Magic Lenses, composed of refractive lenslet arrays, to reveal hidden images when placed over potentially unstructured printed or displayed source images. We determine the refractive geometry of these surfaces by formulating and efficiently solving an inverse light transport problem, taking into account additional constraints imposed by physical manufacturing processes. We fabricate several variants on the basic magic lens idea including using a single source image to encode several hidden images which are only revealed when the lens is placed at prescribed rotational orientations or viewed from different angles. We also present an important special case, the universal lens, that forms an injunction with the source image grid and can be applied to arbitrary source images. We use this type of lens to generate hidden animation sequences. We validate our simulation results with many real-world manufactured magic lenses, and experiment with two separate manufacturing processes.