"Fab By Example" Data-Driven Manufacturing Method for DIY Designs at Home

Even as 3D printing is poised to help democratize manufacturing, it's often overlooked that many 3D-printed items are far too complicated for users to digitally design. Now, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have developed 'Fab By Example,' the first data-driven method to help people design products, with a growing database of templates that allow users to customize thousands of complex items, such as cabinets, jungle gyms, and go-carts. "When we design things on a computer, the question arises of how to manufacture them in the real world with the necessary physical parts - wood, glass, screws, hinges, bolts, and all," says project lead Adriana Schulz. 'For casual users, creating such a detailed model is not just time-consuming, but it's actually more or less impossible unless you know something about mechanical engineering.' Where previous do-it-yourself design databases have required an advanced degree, or at least expertise in computer-assisted design (CAD) software, the team says that now even someone with simple computer skills can make a own customizable item.