Ever since additive manufacturing began to be seen as a production-capable technology, the benefits from generative and parametric design in creating geometries that can fully exploit the possibilities offered by additive processes became even more apparent. A new computational method for creating complex telescoping structures takes geometries to a new level, once that has actually often been seen in science fiction movies.
As the Carnegie Mellon University researchers that authored the paper explain, telescoping structures are valuable for a variety of applications where mechanisms must be compact in size and yet easily deployed. So far, however, there has been no systematic study of the types of shapes that can be modeled by telescoping structures, nor practical tools for telescopic design.
In this paper, presented at SIGGRAPH 2017, the authors Christopher Yu, Keenan Crane, Stelian Coros describe a novel geometric characterization of telescoping curves, and explore how general free-form surfaces can be approximated by networks of such curves. In particular we consider piecewise helical space curves with torsional impulses, which significantly generalize the linear telescopes found in typical engineering designs.
Based on this principle the researchers develop a system for computational design and digital, 3D fabrication which allows users to explore the design space of telescoping structures; inputs to their system include free-form sketches or arbitrary meshes, which are then converted to a curve skeleton. They then prototype applications in animation, fabrication, and robotics by using their system to design a variety of both simulated and fabricated examples.