Fabricating Articulated Characters from Skinned Meshes

Bächer M, Bickel B, James DL, and Pfister H.

(ACM Transactions on Graphics, 2012.)

Articulated deformable characters are widespread in computer animation. Unfortunately, we lack methods for their automatic fabrication using modern additive manufacturing (AM) technologies. We propose a method that takes a skinned mesh as input, then estimates a fabricatable single-material model that approximates the 3D kinematics of the corresponding virtual articulated character in a piecewise linear manner. We first extract a set of potential joint locations. From this set, together with optional, user-specified range constraints, we then estimate mechanical friction joints that satisfy inter-joint non-penetration and other fabrication constraints. To avoid brittle joint designs, we place joint centers on an approximate medial axis representation of the input geometry, and maximize each joint’s minimal cross-sectional area. We provide several demonstrations, manufactured as single, assembled pieces using 3D printers.