Spotlight TEDx Talk: Why won’t my 3D-printed horse stand up?


An unstable 3D-printed horse (Credit: ETH Zurich)

If you have a 3D printer, you can download instructions to make everything from model cars to lamp shades to musical instruments. But while many of these designs are aesthetically pleasing, says computer scientist Emily Whiting, many could benefit from a lesson in physics.

Example: The model horse pictured above. When Whiting downloaded instructions to create the horse, she says at TEDxBeaconStreet, the beautifully-designed model that was meant to stand alone toppled immediately after being printed. Why? It’s a matter of mass, density and gravity, she says. While it can be (relatively) easy to predict what a model will look like, she says, it’s much harder to predict how it will behave. This is where physics comes in.

So, she and a team of three other researchers set out to use the concepts of physics to create an algorithm that makes it easier for designers to create models that keep their balance — monsters that can hold yoga poses, bears poised in breakdancing moves or giant T-Rexes balanced on tiny legs.


Some of Whiting and team’s creations (Credit: ETH Zurich)

The team, based out of ETH Zürich, discovered that allowing users to play with the volume of their 3D creations allows for more complex, more stable models. Through their program, people can make designs that not only look good, but behave well too.

To learn more, watch Whiting’s whole talk:

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