If you believe the hype, 3D printing means that no one is ever going to need to go out shopping again for that spatula, laundry basket, kitchen table or even gun
But there’s a problem. The size of the objects you can print is limited by the volume of your 3D printer.
The Cube home printer, for instance, which costs $1299, can print only in a volume about the size of a lunch box. Research labs can afford big printers, but the home user is stuck printing toy soldiers, rubber stamps and other plastic trinkets.
A new software tool developed by Linjie Luo at Princeton University and colleagues automatically breaks up large 3D models into components that a smaller printer can make, adding connectors to clip the whole object together. The software, called Chopper, works by analysing a 3D model before printing and breaking it down in an optimal way. Object seams are placed as far away as possible from areas of high mechanical stress, also splitting the object into as few sections as possible.
Making these kinds of calculations about 3D objects is difficult, but Chopper was generally able to devise partitions which worked better than those chosen by humans (except for a 3D printed armadillo, for reasons that the Princeton team didn’t understand, but perhaps that’s no great loss).
Source: New Scientist