Need New Toys? Tool Lets You Build Your Own 3D Mechanical Creations

November 3, 2017

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By Meredith Alexander Kunz, Adobe Research

For those who dream of making their own moving 3D objects—say, 3D-printed model cars or fanciful wind-up toys—but don’t have the know-how to make them work, a new world of possibilities is about to open up. A novel technology co-created by Adobe Research allows designers to automatically adapt a working mechanism to fit a wide range of 3D objects, creating millions of opportunities for imaginative toys and functional shapes.

Scientists from Adobe Research collaborated with colleagues at Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) to develop the algorithm that makes it possible. They presented their experimental work, Functionality-Aware Retargeting of Mechanisms to 3D Shapes, at SIGGRAPH 2017.

Using an interactive optimization method paired with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, researchers let designers “re-target” an existing mechanical template into a new 3D shape. That enables the user to automatically optimize just one four-wheel design for 1000 different car toys, for example. What would have taken numerous hours of labor and sophisticated background knowledge in the past could be accomplished rapidly with just one mechanism and many favorite 3D models.

The tool lets designers decide on an existing mechanical assembly to use as well as a 3D shape. It then allows the user to position the mechanism’s pieces on the structure, offering some design creativity built into the process. The result is a functional model that can be 3D printed.

Image © ACM 2017.  This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in the ACM Transactions on Graphics, Volume 36, Issue 4, July 2017 at


Duygu Ceylan and Wilmot Li (Adobe Research)

Ran Zhang, Thomas Auzinger, and Bernd Bickel (IST Austria, Computer Graphics and Digital Fabrication Group)

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