Apple was granted a total of 46 patents today, including a patent for a 3D printing technology that uses triangular tessellation. The patent, which was initially filed in 2014, describes a process invented by computer scientist Michael R. Sweet which utilizes a triangular infill pattern to produce stronger, more efficient 3D printed models.
According to the patent description, the triangular tessellation 3D printing method proposed is meant to enable faster print speeds and to reduce the amount of material used for a given part. This is achieved by using a “triangle support pattern” (or triangular tessellation) print head motion instead of a circular print head movements, which are more or less standard in existing 3D printers.
In short, the patent describes a 3D printing process wherein the print head extrudes material onto a print bed in a triangular tessellated pattern. Unlike many common infill patterns which are constant throughout a since piece, the triangular pattern would vary in size or density. For instance, the outer edges of a part would be made up o smaller triangles, while non-edge portions could have larger triangular tessellation (thus reducing material consumption.)
“In one embodiment, the triangles making up the triangular tessellations are fixed-size triangles,” the patent reads. “In another embodiment, the triangles making up the triangular tessellations are dynamically sized triangles. By way of example, small triangles could be used to form an object’s edges or other regions in which strength/support is needed. Larger triangles could be used to build-up or construct areas where strength/support is not as critical.”
The proposed method can reportedly offer more benefits than conventional circular print head movements.
What does the patent approval mean? At this point, we’re not sure. Apple does hold other patents for 3D printing technologies, though it’s not clear whether these will result in a commercial product offered by the tech company or if they will have in-house applications for research and prototyping.