Researchers from the University of Tokyo and University of Colorado have designed what they term as “Dynablock: Dynamic 3D Printing for Instant and Reconstructable Shape Formation,” a process that assembles any number of three-dimensional shapes from a large number of small 9mm blocks. The most straightforward explanation is that the platform combines 3D printing capabilities with shape displays — meaning it can generate 3D shapes and reform them on the fly very quickly.
The Dynablock platform uses a series of 9mm blocks (cubes) that connect to one another via embedded permanent magnets and forms a parallel assembler using a 24 x 16-pin-based shape display. An incredible number of blocks — 3,072 are stacked on top of the shape display, and motorized pins push up those blocks to assemble an object layer by layer while the embedded magnets connect each one with their neighbors to form the object. Because of the block’s weaker vertical magnetic connections, Dynablock can for arbitrary and graspable shapes with overhangs vs. the 2.5D found in existing shape displays.
The researcher’s paper describes some potential applications for the Dynablock system, including an exciting idea for interactive 3D images for textbooks (the Dynamic Physicalizable Textbook). For example, a natural history book could show an animated dinosaur, a chemistry book may display molecules, and a book about architecture might display famous buildings. Other apps include on-demand haptic proxy objects for VR, direct interactive fabrication, and a tool for designers to render products for clients and making changes to them on-the-fly before heading to production.