Making wireframe models in CAD is easy enough but converting them into actual physical designs is somewhat of an ordeal since the lengths and sizes of all the members have to be extremely accurate and it does take a lot of time. But now you can make models directly from CAD with the help of this new gun that converts wacky tape into outline objects, hinges, bearings and even axles. With the help of these elements, your model can have the movement, opening and appearance just like real models, but with significantly less cost because of the use of tape. The team of researchers at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute and the University of Potsdam has created this “Photopiper” and believes it will help students, DIY enthusiasts and even industry people in carrying out projects with speed and efficiency.
Now this wire generating gun’s working involved a lot of out-of-the-box thinking from the researchers as it involves on-spot manufacturing with incredible speed rather than the usual plastic tubes that have to be cut, bent and ordered from other entities. The tape has a reasonable strength-to-weight ratio and being formed from adhesive tape makes it a sturdy alternative. Now quick-assembled structures can be made swiftly with the help of this gun.
It has the capability of extruding pipes for the assembly at a rate of eight centimeters per second and can create a 90 cm length in approximately 11-12 seconds. The rotary correction encoder on the servo motor of the gun ensures that the error rate is less than 0.01%. It is powered by an 11.1 Volt LiPo rechargeable battery and is able to cut up to 200 cut lengths of pipe in one charge, so a new project in a single charge isn’t bad, eh?
The usage of two stencils converts surface tape into volumetric pipe in successive processes that are simply marvelous to look at. The first stencil is U-shaped and it bends the tape into half tube form and then the E-shaped stencil completely converts it into a pipe shape and the natural adhesiveness of the tape makes the ends stick to each other. It is pure engineering innovation and we rarely get to see nowadays. Although the system takes input from the CAD drawings and models, there is also a manual override that can help you make anything with your own hands. It is particularly useful for brainstorming and concept generation through free-hand designing. This sure takes the whole creative concept to the next level.
The tape gun can make different kinds of joints and bearings like the hinge joint and wing-style connectors. The Photopiper can use its capabilities to make simple and complex models as it was demonstrated by the team. They made simple standing structure and complex ones with opening doors and operating drawers as well. In the team’s words, any structure involving pipes that can be dangled, rotated or popped is possible with the help of this revolutionary process.
It also comes equipped with a type of reverse engineering methodology that can convert existing wireframes into CAD models using a smartphone app. It is pretty good at making a blueprint for re-manufacturing. The Photopiper is still in the development stage as there is no word from the inventors on when it might be released. It will no doubt undergo further improvements and additional capacity-building before it is released for the masses. But, I guess, you can probably use their stencil ideas to make a manually-operated gun on your own! Here is a video of the machine.