Computational design: The best applications for 3D printing | Sculpteo Blog

Computational design: The best applications for 3D printing

Posted By Marianna Papageorgiou on Jan 24, 2018 | 0 comments

Artists, designers, engineers and architects have already realized that the future of engineering and architecture relies on the efficiency of the design software. A way to successfully achieve the higher design complexity is to use computational design. This tool enables the realization of every possible form, where conventional design techniques would be insufficient. In this blog post, we will see how some projects were digitally created thanks to the computational design and how they became real products thanks to the 3D printing technology.


What is computational design?


With the term “Computational design” we refer to the use of computers and algorithms in order to achieve the digital creation of geometries through a mathematical approach. It is a design tool that enables its user to manage and coordinate many parameters at the same time, while keeping some specific constraints stable. Even if it’s a technology that got introduced in the engineering, design and architecture fields, it gains recently more and more importance.


The key advantage of computational design over the traditional design techniques is that it improves the design process to make it more efficient and to generate more complex results that would be impossible to create in any other way. Computational design is an excellent way to approach problems that require high-levels of complexity both from design and engineering perspectives. In the following paragraphs, we will see some of these projects, both from engineering and aesthetical points of view.


Computational Design and 3D printing 


Computational design deals with digital forms of great complexity. Sounds familiar? 3D printing is dealing with digital files and it excels them in complex structures! Additive Manufacturing technology has the key advantage over the rest of the traditional manufacturing technologies to enable the creation of objects of every geometry. For 3D printing, complexity is not an issue, as everything is built layer-by-layer, even the most impossible designs. So, Computational Design can create complex 3D models in the digital world, and 3D printing is the appropriate manufacturing technology to turn them into actual products.


3D printing application for Computational Design in the Robotics Industry


Until now, in the world of robotics it was customary to work with stiff materials that are moving thanks to rigid articulations. The Disney Research department is taking this one step further. They recently introduced a computational tool for designing compliant mechanisms. The goal is to design more flexible structures than the traditional rigid joints which are currently used in the field of robotics. The use of computational design was necessary for achieving many technical specifications for their robotic machines, such as better motion tracking, preventing material fracture, resilience to failure, minimizing the motor torque etc..



3D printing application for Computational Design in the Medical Industry


Computational design is an excellent tool to deal with customization. Since it is a design tool, it enables the creation of lightweight parts, adaptable to the needs and personal taste of the individual. It allows the export of digital files for precise 3D printing. Thus, computational design finds many applications in the creation of personalized prosthesis and orthosis parts. It can design parts tailored to the needs, aesthetics and budget of the patient. The medical industry is actually one of the fields where computational design is used the most, as it can totally customize comfortable and functional parts to fit the shape of every patient.

Computational Design in the Medical Industry

3D printing application for Computational Design in the Fashion Industry


The fashion world reaches more advanced levels of creativity everyday. Fashion designers have integrated the 3D printing technology into their daily workflow, seeking innovation, beauty and extravagance. These characteristics are possible to achieve with the computational design.

 Computational Design in the Fashion Industry

 Computational Design in the Fashion Industry

Complex forms of clothes with internal structures and lattices, can be easily designed and modified in a digital environment. It is also possible to simulate and visualize the movement of the designed masterpieces before 3D printing them. The fashion industry already counts numerous futuristic-inspired 3D printed items, such as clothes, bags, hats or even 3D printed shoes and 3D printed eyewear.

Computational Design in the Fashion Industry

Computational Design in the Fashion Industry

Other applications: Construction and big scale installations


In our recent blog-post about 3D printing with concrete, we investigated the potential and the current limits of Additive Manufacturing in the construction field. Though, this area can use the additive manufacturing technology for multiple future applications, 3D printing with concrete is just one of them.

As a matter of fact, many big-scale 3D printing projects are created using computational design. The following projects help you visualize better the integration of computational design and 3D printing in big scale constructions.


Parametrically designed Illuminated 3D printed Installation


Two professors from the Singapore University of Technology and Design achieved to create a 3D printed installation of dimensions 10m x 6m x 3m! It is a structure that contains 152 nodes that are 3D printed using ABS and Nylon to contain internal custom LED bulbs. The impressive thing about this project is that it’s an interactive light sculpture, as its illumination changes in response to the movements of humans that are passing below it, thanks to the sensors that are attached to the nodes.

Parametrically designed Illuminated 3D printed Installation

Complex as it sounds, it could only be created using computational design, not only from the aesthetics point of view, but also on the functional side. It is obvious that computational design is a practical solution that enables the designers to manage the numerous geometry features that the network contains. Moreover, with the computational design it’s possible to predict not only the static performance of the installation when exposed to external conditions (such as wind, rain etc..), but also to simulate the integration of the illumination sensors/actuators in the design.



Parametrically designed 3D Printed Experimental Structure


The worldwide famous architect office of Zaha Hadid 3D printed an experimental structure for the last Milan Design Week, using the 3D printing technology. According to the Zaha Hadid Architects, “the “Thallus” project is an experimental structure investigating form and pattern generated by advanced manufacturing and computational methods.” What is peculiar about this structure is that all of it was 3D printed using a six-axis robotic 3D printing technology, in order to extrude the 7 km long filament in one piece!

Parametrically designed 3D Printed Experimental Structure


This project was carried out by the ZHA CoDe (Computational Design) research group, and it is an example of what can be achieved when combining technology and customization in fields such as architecture and construction. This geometry could only be generated thanks to the computational design. In this case, computation enabled the investigation of the behavior of the design through its expansion and diffusion and its extrusion in a continuous seed curve, while being constrained to a surface.

Parametrically designed 3D Printed Experimental Structure

Parametrically designed 3D Printed Grotto


Two architects, Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer have been working on the computational design for the creation of the project called “Grotto II”. It is a 7 tons complex ornamented structure that was 3D printed using sandstone material. This project demonstrates how computational design and 3D printing technology can be combined to give an actual form to digital architectural creations.


Digital Grotesque II . Printing Architecture at Centre Pompidou from Digital Grotesque.


The complexity of the ornamented surfaces that this masterpiece has reached is obvious. Thanks to the computational design, the grotto is entirely designed by algorithms and optimized to generate differentiated surfaces, porous and various types of geometries. Like this, an endless variety of details is created for the observer to explore.

Parametrically designed 3D Printed Experimental Structure


From what we’ve read so far, we can run to one conclusion: customization, computational design and 3D printing are inseparably linked with each other. Customized projects need the computational design in order to be successfully created. And computational design needs the 3D printing technology to pass from the digital to the real.

So, if you want to transform your idea into an actual product, do not hesitate to upload your 3D file on our website and we will 3D print it for you!



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