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Scott E. Hudson is a Professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon, and the founder of their “HCI” doctoral program. The talk he gave yesterday at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 32nd annual Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI 2014) is making waves all over the web today. The paper and video (embedded above) released to accompany that talk present a new kind of “soft” 3D printing technology that radically expands the possibilities of low-cost additive prototyping and manufacturing equipment.

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Hudson’s “Teddy Bear Printer” uses a process that is, in his words, “tightly analogous” to the familiar fused-filament fabrication technology of RepRap, MakerBot, Ultimaker, and other common desktop 3D printers — so much so that the established software toolchains for these printers can be used almost without modification for Hudson’s machine. His proof-of-concept system consists of an off-the-shelf RAMPS-controlled desktop 3D printer running Repetier-Host for client functions, Slic3r (plus “custom translation” post-processing software) for CAM functions, and OpenSCAD for modeling (CAD) functions. The major difference is a special “needle felting print head” attached to the Cartesian robot.

Scott Hudson, “Printing Teddy Bears: A Technique for 3D Printing of Soft Interactive Objects”, to appear in Proceedings of the CHI’14 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, April 2014. (PDF)

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • http://www.makerfairekc.com Luis E. Rodriguez

    I see RepRap tech is being used, I hope they understand this community and share the design. :(

    • http://makezine.com Sean Ragan

      Well, this is an academic researcher, not a corporate one, and by the standards of that community, publishing the paper *is* sharing the design. Dr. Hudson may or may not publish the physibles for his felting print head, but as long as he doesn’t try to spin off a closed-source company or patent the tech I have no problem with him using RepRap stuff.

  • s0nicfreak

    So they made an automatic needle felting machine. That’s a lot less exciting than I thought it would be.

    • http://makezine.com Sean Ragan

      Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.

      • http://sternlab.org Becky Stern

        CNC needlefelting is not a thing your average crafter has access too. Felting machines are for bulk fabric, not intricate designs. However I don’t see this thing being able to create 3D objects like Moxie makes anytime soon. http://www.moxielieberman.com/portfolio.html

        • s0nicfreak

          Your average crafter doesn’t have access to a 3d printer either.

        • http://www.makezine.com Caleb Kraft

          to be fair, I don’t know many felters who can create 3D objects like Moxie makes either!

    • http://www.makezine.com Caleb Kraft

      I think it is incredibly exciting for the 3d printing community. I mean, it isn’t groundbreaking or anything, but seeing new methods of using the tech is always fantastic.

  • Gus Mendez

    I´m looking forward to see what the Becky Stern and the Guys at Adafruit will do with this!!!!! E-TEXTILES ROCK!

    • http://sternlab.org Becky Stern

      Thanks Gus! But this isn’t really e-textiles (textiles with electronics inside), it’s electronics that make textiles. =D You could certainly use it to add some conductive yarn to your prints for capacitive touch sensors, though! I loves me some needlefelting.

      • http://makezine.com Sean Ragan

        The paper actually goes on to talk about how to embed actuators and circuits and so forth, BTW. Just didn’t have time to hit on that in the post.

  • http://sternlab.org Becky Stern

    SMR, I’m ashamed you used the word “sewing” in your post title– you should know better! It is most certainly FELTING, the angriest of the fibercrafts.

    • http://makezine.com Sean Ragan

      I think the body of the post makes that clear enough. But for headline purposes, most people know what a sewing machine is. Not so much a “felting machine.” Sounds kinda dirty, actually. Or maybe that’s just me. :)

      • http://sternlab.org Becky Stern

        Using the improper term both caters to and perpetuates that misuse– just sayin’!

        • http://www.makezine.com Caleb Kraft

          I bit my palm when I saw the title. The content made me feel better so I thought maybe I was just being a nerd. I guess I should have spoken up!

        • http://makezine.com Sean Ragan

          If you put a felting attachment on your sewing machine, does it stop being a sewing machine?